NT, Part 2. How Jesus said we should live
One of the things that I did when I was in high school was play baseball. I loved the sport. I dreamt about being a professional. I hung a ball from a rafter in my garage and practiced batting during the off season. But, my first three years of high school I did not hit the ball very well. Then, before my senior year, during spring training, our Vice-Principal watched me bat. He said, “Hayden! What are you doing?” In short, what he discovered was I had a hole in my swing because of how I was holding the bat. He had me adjust my hands and my world changed. The preceding year I had batted about .198. My senior year I batted in the neighborhood of .380. Why? I adjust my hands 1/2 of an inch. Wow.
In the first four chapters of the New Testament of the Bible, Jesus adjusted our spiritual swing. Jesus moved us from Law (the Old Testament) to Love. He did this in three areas of our lives. The first two areas are recorded in Matthew 22:34-40. After being asked by a Pharisee “which is the greatest commandment in the Law” Jesus responded by saying,
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ (Deuteronomy 6:5). This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18). All the Law and the Prophets hand on these two commandments.
Notice Jesus re-focused life from the “Thou shalt not” emphasis of the Old Testament (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5) to a “Thou Shalt” focus. This does not mean that the 10 commandments no longer have meaning. Rather it means that if I truly love God I will do what The Commandments say because I want to not because I have to. For instance, I will not take God’s name in vain (Commandment 3) but will learn to talk about and wisely use the name of the One I love. It means that I won’t attempt to solidify God in a moment of time by creating an image but will recognize that God is alive and dynamic in God’s being (Commandment 2), etc. In short, I will follow the rules of the spiritual section of the commands not because I have to but because I want to as an expression of my move for God.
In similar fashion, the second half of the 10 commandments will still be in tact even though there is a new standard for motivation. My motivation for neighborly behavior will no longer be based on fear of punishment or reprisal but on how I would like to be treated. I will honor my father and mother because when I get to be their age and I have children of my own I desire to be honored (Command 5). I will not lie to others because I want people to tell me the truth (#9). I won’t steal from others because I don’t want someone stealing from me (#8). I won’t commit adultery because I don’t want someone romancing and seducing my spouse (#7). Etc. These are practical ways by which I can love my neighbor.
There is a third area in which Jesus adjusted how we should treat each other and this within a religious community. For Jesus it was in the religious community of his disciples. In the Upper Room on the night of his betrayal he tells his disciples,
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35
I take this new commandment to relate directly to everyone that claims to be a believer in and follow of Jesus Christ. So, Catholics and Protestants are to love each other. Pentecostals and Orthodox are to love each other. Presbyterians and Baptists are to love each other. Lutherans and Methodists are to love each other. We are not to love each other through verbal ascent but in actions like Jesus acted with his disciples. When we do not love each other the world around us notices.
Now, one of the important aspects of this book we have been talking about, The Bible, is that it not only gives us the directions as to how God wants us to live but it provides the stories from real life about those who have succeeded and failed in their attempts to live that way. Jesus is the only one who loved perfectly in this fashion we have just described. Jesus lived what he taught. He walked the walk. As a result, he has earned the right for my life to be the one I follow.
How about you? Just as my vice-principal adjusted how I held a bat and that adjustment changed how I played baseball, so Jesus wants to adjust how we are to live in relationship to one another. When we make those adjustments our batting average goes up. When we refuse to listen it drops way down. If you haven’t already, will you allow Jesus to become your coach and teach you a new way, his way to love God and others?