Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Most Difficult Commandment?

Critics of Christianity sometimes point to the Scriptures as a collection of restrictive rules and regulations, a system of arbitrary do’s and don’ts. I couldn’t disagree more, but let’s consider a few of those “rules” for a moment – specifically, some of the Ten Commandments.

We're told we shouldn’t lie. Who’s in favor of lying? What about murder? Anybody think that’s a good thing? Stealing? Who likes having stuff stolen from them? Adultery or greed? Let’s see a show of hands of everyone endorsing those.

Hopefully you sense my sarcasm. I believe the commandments, God’s rules and statutes, are intended for our good, like a car manufacturer stipulating how often to change the oil and what kind to use, the proper inflation for the tires, etc. Not to be restrictive, only to let you know how things work best, according to the designer.

Loving your enemies - Mission:Impossible,
or divine design?
Frankly, the most difficult commands of all to follow are not the “don’ts,” but the ones we’re told to do. Case in point: Jesus instructed His followers during His so-called Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love (only) those who love you, what reward will you get?(Matthew 5:43-46).

Don’t you enjoy doing that – loving your enemies? I imagine when Jesus first said this, His hearers uttered a collective “What the…?” But this wasn’t a brand-new notion, even then. Hundreds of years earlier this Old Testament admonition had preceded it:

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Proverbs 25:22).

So, how are we doing with this? Well, radical Muslims are bombing and burning, spewing their vitriol toward hated Americans, all in the name of “peace.” As the Presidential election nears, rather than calm, thoughtful rhetoric, both sides of the political spectrum are pouring venom on one another, viciously attacking the opponent.

Gang warfare in many cities grows at alarming rates, and crazed individuals assault and kill innocent, unsuspecting citizens. Many schools now have security officers and metal detectors to protect students from violence. Films, TV shows and video games glamorize death and mayhem.

Is this how we’re supposed to win friends and influence people?

Two thousand years ago, Jesus gave us simple, straight-forward instructions: Love your enemies. The apostle Paul, writing to Christ followers in Rome, stated, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). Easier said than done, right?

Seems to me, if the human race is “evolving,” we must be stuck in reverse.

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