Thursday, January 22, 2009
What Comes First
It's true, God didn't write the Bible- at least not in the sense that He did not heft a great and holy pen and script verbatim what we see to this day. The writers of the Scriptures were entirely and wholly (and holy) inspired by God to write what they did but God Himself we only see write on two occasions: the first being the first of the Ten Commandments; the second would be Jesus writing in the sand as an adulteress is about to be stoned.
When you stop to think about it, the fact that God wrote IN STONE with his finger is pretty wild so as I am taking time to really read those famous Ten, I felt a little guilty about my first thought after about verse 8, I thought, "Man, God is kind of repeating Himself because the Second Commandment just seems to repeat the first." So I kept reading for a few chapters and went back and re-reread chapter 30 of Exodus and then it hit me (I can be slow so forgive me): God's First Commandment is not a rule, it is a choice in paradigm, stating, "You will have no other gods, only me" (The Message translation).
God is saying to us that we should read the rest of these Commandments, listen to them, follow them- but they are not the point. They are not the point anymore than it is the point of marriage to not commit adultery or the point of being a parent is to not beat your child. The point is love. If you love your spouse you will, by default, not commit adultery and if you love your child you will not beat them. Love dictates this, inspires this, lifts our hearts to the point where we don't have to be told HOW to love only inspired to love better.
So again, the First Commandment is not a rule but a choice between legalism and relational love with God. Between outward masks of piety and honest confessions that none are righteous and that we all need God because we are not going to make it on our own.
John, in his biography of Jesus, tells us that Jesus said, "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness... will be added..." The searching, longing, finding of the Kingdom is first in the list, righteous comes as a natural by-product of love, not as a prerequisite of a relationship with God or event to attend church.
Recently I was having a conversation with someone who had just become a Christ-follower during one of CRUX services and we sat after our Tuesday discussion group and they said to me, "I am just afraid of telling people what has gone on in my life- they would just be too shocked."
I replied, "If you looked around this room (there was a large gathering of us) and could have seen everyone's baggage you would have seen rape victims, recovering alcoholics, porn-addicts, drug-abusers, miscarriages, abortions, and attempted suicides- there is not a lot we haven't dealt with here."
They said, "I guess my view of Christians has been really wrong."
I guess so, but why? Because as the church we (generally speaking) have not practiced the discipline and necessity of honest and brutal confession so as we do enter into a real love of God the transformation that takes place within our hearts is so private that no one is inspired by the change. We learned to wear a well constructed mask whether we grew up in church or came in later: we pretended to know what words like "righteous", "worship", "redeemed", and "holy" meant and then pretended that we did not curse, fool around with our boy/girlfriend, smoke, party, drink, watch R-rated movies, or look at pornography. Those were some good looking masks.
And when some unfortunate member of our mask-wearing brotherhood was caught at church or elsewhere without his mask (or it just slipped off) we were quick to denounce him or her. Given this, are we honestly surprised that the church has been said to be "full of hypocrites"?
God knew this and so gave us the First Commandment, "No other gods, only me". Only your spouse, only your child, only your best friend. Only a unique and amazing love that would inspire, draw, and lift you to where you only wanted to be close to a God that so wanted to be close for you He paid a debt you could not.
The heart of the following nine Commandments lies in how we choose in the First one. Legalism or relationship? Rules or love? That is the lens with which we see the world.
Don't buy it? When is the next time we see God write? When a woman is caught in the act of breaking one of the Ten Commandments, what does Jesus do? An act of love.