duty~love/love~duty

Jesus replied, “you shall not murder,

you shall not commit adultery,

you shall not steal,

you shall not give false testimony,

honour your father and mother

and love your neighbour as yourself.”

Matthew 19:18-20 (NIV)

Jesus was talking to the young rich guy who could not in the end do what was necessary to become a disciple, a follower of the Lord. And we good people who are followers of Christ look to the young foolish man and scoff, silly boy, of course we have surrendered everything, our entire lives belong to him. Or do they?

It is in times of strife that the cracks begin to show in our faith. When things are going swimmingly, we can easily lift up holy hands on a Sunday, we might even manage the odd Bible verse midweek. We are in the moment of happy clappiness. Nothing can bring us down, we stand together, a community of Christ believers, in fellowship together, lifting each other up, helping where there is need, being there for each other.

Hard times come, financially bankrupt, spiritually bankrupt. How do we respond as a body, and as individuals to the Ten commandments, not in the simple form of “you shall not steal” but in the more profound form of “you shall not even think of …” This is when we begin to split hairs, a white lie is not false testimony, thinking up excuses for not not doing something is not false testimony. What about if in order to give true testimony you have to dishonour a parent? What about if you have never murdered someone but your actions have led to someone’s death? What about helping that neighbour, the grumpy one at the end of the terrace, you’ve given them a pie every week for the last seven years and you are fed up with doing it? I could go on. We rationalise our actions, making them seem less than sins in our eyes and spread this around our community. In the rationalisation though we forget one vital fact, God knows, God knows what was in our heart when we did that deed, and if it was done in love, he knows. But he also knows if the only reason we did it was out of empty duty.

Why take us on this journey of self examination, of potential God examination. Because I am about to do something. To another person in another situation this would be the most natural thing in the world, you don’t have to be Christian to do this. Up to even this time last year I would do this out of duty alone, empty, shallow duty, I would be extremely resentful and I would not be in the happy clappy camp for very long. The cracks in my faith would show and my heart would be turned to stone. 

However this is the new creation and I go in love, I do not go out of duty. I could say no, and stay home away from conflict and opposing views. I said yes, and then I prayed and have continued a mantra of prayer – Lord please let your love be seen through me. The love that is one of the fruits of the Spirit is God’s love. It is a love that extends to all humankind, no matter what we have done or are. Believers can be shocked by that idea, that we are in some kind of club that excludes the undesirables. And so I extend that love to one who has done enormous harm in my life, who continues to try to wreak havoc in my life, I extend firstly forgiveness for all they have done and do, they know no better and secondly I go. 

The two commandments in the New Testament  – to love and to go, it is a mission to bring this person to know the Lord, it may not be my mission but I can plant the seed in their hardened heart. I can show the love that I received at a time when I felt worthless. The love that breaks down barriers and brings us into relationship with the Lord. I can and I will show this love. I pray it is received as it is given, in love.

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