Read Galatians 5:14
While participating in a pilgrimage in Eufaula, Alabama, I had an interesting discussion about legalism with an Episcopal priest. We were discussing how the greatest commandment, to love, is the new commandment from Jesus. It is the “blanket” commandment covering all. God has been teaching me this for several years through one of my “growth themes for life”; Mark 12:29-31. Those who know me well know that I reference these verses often. It is not uncommon to fall into debate on whether the Ten Commandments should be the standard we are supposed to live by as New Testament believers. Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). Through Bible study and sitting under the teaching of some amazing theologians that God has put in my life, I have learned that the Ten Commandments were given to us as a means to show us a need for a savior. Sadly, many believers are still in bondage to laws they cannot possibly ever even begin to keep. Each commandment leads to a plethora of other commandments that can stem from the original. It is impossible to please God apart from the Savior. Jesus kept the commandments perfectly. He is the only one because He is God. He is sinless. He is not even capable of toying with the idea of falling into temptation because He is the only One who is perfect and holy, the sacrificial Lamb of God, Yeshua. Oh, there is something about that name that fills my heart to overflowing!
When I cross referenced Jesus’ command to love in Matthew 5:44, I immediately found a minimum of 20 references that reiterated this command. The most compelling verse, however, is Galatians 5:14, which states, “The entire law is summed up in a single command, love your neighbor as yourself”. There it is, in the Word of God. This verse is the end of the debate between Old and New Testament law. This is what is meant by fulfillment and not abolishment of the old. God is all about loving others. He displayed that perfect love so adequately through the sacrificial Lamb. To accurately paint a picture to a lost and dying world, all we need to do is love others as well as we love ourselves…or even more, to think more highly of them than we do ourselves. This is how we love God which is the First and Greatest Commandment. To love others is to love God. Let’s see how this plays out with the Ten Commandments and use a few for example.
One commandment is that we should not covet. We should not envy. Well, that already hits home with me! If we love others and esteem them as more important than us, we see them as more deserving. God gives to each of us as He sees fit for His purpose and our best. We do not love God if we are not satisfied with our portion and want what another has. Coveting leads to envy. Envy leads to jealousy. Jealousy will eventually produce hatred which can lead to theft, murder, and all kinds of other commandment breakers (and relationship destroyers).
Another command is that we should not steal. This one is obvious. If we love others then we will not steal from them. We will desire to add good gifts to what they already have. We will not covet their things and loved ones and try to take them for our own. This applies to more than just things or spouses, but friendships and status as well.
This is a great segway for yet another of the Old Testament laws. Do not commit adultery. Hmmm, this is also coveting and stealing. Funny how they all tie in together isn’t it? To love God is to be thankful for what He has given us and not think we are more deserving to have what another has,. It means we rejoice in the blessing He has given another.
What about lying, gossip or as it is written in the Bible, “bearing false witness”? Why do we say bad things about people we are commanded to love? This is considered murder by tongue! From this we can conclude that when we spread rumors, we murder the name and character of another. We are putting self above others and above God. This is also considered murdering of another’s character which brings to mind another commandment.
Do not murder. When we love others (including our enemies) why would we ever murder anyone? Here, I am speaking of the physical form. But if we are loving others more than ourselves, murdering their name would be such a tragedy that one could never even fathom physical harm! If we love God first, above all, then we would love others too much to do this sort of thing. So, if we are doing it, what does this say about our love for God?
Wow, writing these things has really been an eye opener and I must confess, I do not do very well when it comes to loving. God help me. One thing I have seen through it all is that envy and jealousy are at the root of most commandment breakers and I have a terrible problem in this area. Sadly I am not alone. I think this is something that every believer struggles with at some point. When it all boils down, we are only capable of love because He loved us first. This is why He sent His Son to die that we might receive pardon.
We need to realize and understand that as we have been given so much that we should desire to pass it on. Consequently, when we are tempted to fall into legalism and/or judge another because they have broken a command, when we use a person’s “sin” to condemn them and treat them with hatred, we need to reflect on the new commandment (which really isn’t new at all). Love one another. We are all equally guilty of falling short and quite capable of breaking every commandment God has ever given us. We are no more exception to the rule than any other. We need to remember this when we are tempted to elevate ourselves above another in any form. Also, we must be very careful to not look for reasons to justify our wrong treatment of another or to find a way to say, “I do this with love” when you know deep down that is not the truth. I most certainly am not writing this from a clear conscience, but from my own personal convictions.
With this said, I conclude that the new commandment does not eradicate the old. It is quite the opposite. It is the blanket that wraps around it. Love covers a multitude of sin. Love God and love others to the best of your ability. Live by the new command given to us by Yeshua Himself. But, remember, apart from the Son, it is impossible to please God in any way. The only way to love is through Jesus Christ who, when we believe, gives us the Holy Spirit of God to dwell in us as the holy temple of God.