It’s so complicated to follow all of Jesus’ teachings, to keep them all in mind, from the Sermon on the Mount to the parables and other sayings, but I am convinced that if we are obedient to His First Great Commandment and to the first four of the Ten Commandments, we cannot do anything that would upset God or be against His wishes for us. Jesus’s First Great Commandment states that we are to love God with all of ourselves, heart, mind, soul and strength. [Luke 10:25]
This, along with the second Great Commandment to love your neighbor as yourself, sum up the law and the prophets. Or we can just follow the first four commandments.[Exodus 20]:
“You shall have no other gods before me.”
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above and on earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.”
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.”
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”
What does it mean to love God with all of ourselves or to have no other gods before Him? We are to bring our whole selves to God—our inconstancy, our rebellion, our pain and suffering and all that is good in us. We are to allow God, even to invite God into our hearts and minds and souls and to place all the negativity in us in his hands—our self-images, our hurts, our angers and fears, guilt and shame—to ask for His healing presence that we might be transformed into people who have learned the lessons from every instance of negativity in our lives whether it was caused by someone else or by ourselves.
If we hold back anything from God, we are not loving Him with all of ourselves. Usually, we are hiding our pain, suffering, guilt and shame from God, ourselves and others, so that we don’t have to feel it or see it. When we are finally willing to bring all this negativity within us to God, then we will also need to bring all the positives in us and place them on the altar to serve God. We give our gifts, our talents, the lessons we have learned from our pain and suffering, the good we have done to the service of God. Also, we need to bring our work to the altar, our relationships, especially our partners and children, and lift them up to God. We need to bring our hopes and dreams and unrealized talents to God and lay them on the altar, too.
We have now laid our negativity and our positive traits before God. Next comes our assumptions and expectations. Both of these are largely formed in us by the culture, like the assumption that we can create our own destiny. Or that nothing should harm us, especially if we’re good at following the law. Many of these assumptions and expectations that we live by rank higher than God in our priorities. If we are to love God with all of ourselves, we have to lay these on the altar, too.
Specifically, if there are people who are more important than God to us, if there are “gods” that we worship above the Lord our God, like the political system or our bosses or others in the world that we pay more attention to than God– these all need to be placed on the altar before God. Like our work, our daily bread.
And lastly, the Sabbath. Even God needed a day of rest, a day without the burdens of creation, and so He set aside a day like that for us to rest and worship. To keep it holy, sanctified. To cleanse, purify, to consecrate, to bless. To recreate ourselves in a day, to ready ourselves for the coming week and to again make sure that God is first in our lives.
If we keep the commandment of Jesus to love God with all of ourselves and the first four of Exodus 20, we will be in good standing with the Lord our God who would take care of us in all ways, just as He did with the Israelites in the wilderness and beyond. These commandments keep our Lord at the forefront of our hearts and minds, souls and strength. They keep us in the right relationship to our God. And, in serving God with all of ourselves, we are also treating our neighbors as ourselves.
Anything that comes between us and God, anything that is a priority above our relationship with God, anything that violates his commandments and thereby creates another separation, anything in us that rebels or denies or makes God secondary to us—these are the “gods” that we worship above Him. For we were created in His image for His purposes and the sooner we get on to His agenda and release our own, the sooner we will find fulfillment and purpose, love and forgiveness, and the meeting of all our needs, be they spiritual or physical or mental or emotional. God is there for us in every way always. Will we be there for him in the same way?
Once we’re in the right relationship with God, when we can accept His love for us, then the 2nd great commandment of Jesus comes so easily to us: to love your neighbor as yourself. [Matthew 22:39, Luke 10:27] Or as Jesus puts it in John 13:34, “Love one another.” The love that we are experiencing in giving our whole selves to God in love just pours out to everyone else.
Questions to ponder over the week: Have I given my whole self to God—warts and all? What am I holding back? Why am I clinging to it? Do I trust God? Really trust Him in everything? Why not? What in my life is more important to me than my relationship with God? What area(s) of my life do I cling to, not wishing to give it/them up to Him? What can I give up now that would begin to break up the log jam in me?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who have laid our whole lives on the altar. May we love God with all that we are, no matter what. May we always follow God’s lead.
If you want to read the whole blog post for this week, go to bythewaters.net/blog.html. Also, there are archives of my blog going back to 2011.
My new book, “Exodus: Our Story, Too!”, is available at amazon.com. Its thesis is that the Exodus story reveals an invitation for us all to give our lives over to Christ in the deepest way possible and the template for how to do that. The author’s name is my full name, Patricia Said Adams.