Sin and the Commandments to Love
Many churches teach their members to walk in Christ by being good and staying away from the sins outlined in the Bible. Their walk with Christ is done by trying to remain sin-free. They portray God as frowning on anyone who lives in sin. The basis of their life in Christ is purity and righteousness. Many say the following passage by Jesus is evidence that we cannot abandon the Old Testament laws.
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." - Matthew 5:17-20
In the Old Testament, many laws and commandments were made to prevent us from sinning...from hurting each other. People were SO disrespectful to God and each other that God had to command His people to respect Him and to respect each other.
The Ten Commandments: 1. Do not worship any other gods before me. 2. Do not make an idol to worship. 3. Do not use the name of the Lord your God in vain. 4.Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. 5. Honor your father and mother, 6. Do not murder. 7. Do not commit adultery. 8. Do not steal. 9. Do not bear false witness against your neighbor. 10. Do not covet your neighbor's house, wife, servants, ox, donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Exodus 20:1-17, Deut 5:6-21
There were 613 commandments given by Moses to the Jewish people. Though Christians no longer follow many of these laws outlined in Judaism, many Christians try to live following rules laid out to them by their churches and the New Testament, avoiding sin and sinful people. For the conscientious Christian, the fear of failure is always a possibility, leaving many people doubting their salvation. But the pursuit of trying to remain sin-free is a self-centered activity based on fear. When one is trying to be sinless, the last thing one has time for...is someone else. They are too preoccupied with saving themselves.
Many Christians use the TEN COMMANDMENTS as a guideline for their behavior, but the Ten Commandments are the MINIMUM that you can do to follow God. And the problem is, people ONLY WANT to do the MINIMUM.
It is easy to follow these commandments. You can make a list and start checking them off. "I don't steal, I don't bear false witness, I don't worship other gods, I don't kill, I don't use the Lord's name in vain...I MUST be saved."
But Jesus asks MORE of His followers. "Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."
Our righteousness has to surpass those of the Pharisees and teachers of the law? The Pharisees devoted their lives to following every law and rule precisely. How can anyone live like this? How can anyone keep up and do all of these commandments and rules?
Jesus shows us what the Kingdom of God is really about.
"In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. - Matthew 7:12
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 'This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." -Matthew 22: 36-40
How do ALL THE LAWS of the Prophets HANG on these commandments to love God and love your neighbor as yourself?
Sin is the violation of God's will and commands. It is important to understand exactly WHAT SIN IS and HOW IT VIOLATES GOD'S COMMANDMENTS.
All SINS have the same things in common.
SIN is a self-serving act done AGAINST God or someone that dishonors, hurts, forces onto or takes away from them. Sin never has LOVE behind it, either the love for God, the love for our neighbor or both. Sin is AGAINST love. Many times sin is a result of a dissatisfaction with God, your neighbor, yourself or a situation.
In all cases, the person who sins, would not want to be treated the same way. Everyone criticizes, yet no one likes to be criticized. Everyone laughs at someone else, but no one likes to be laughed at.
Paul defines love: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Sin is the opposite of love.
Sin is impatient, sin is not kind. It envies, boasts and is proud. Sin is rude, self-seeking, is easily angered, and keeps a record of wrongs. Sin delights in evil and doesn't rejoice with the truth. It never protects, never trusts, never hopes and never perseveres.
This defines what SIN is made up of.
Consider the Israelites who grumbled to God about being led out of Egypt. What's wrong with complaining? Though He freed them from bondage and slavery, their complaining, impatience and discontent left them wandering the desert for 40 years. They failed to love, honor, trust and follow God who saved them.
Consider the 10th commandment: "Do not covet your neighbor's house, wife, servants, ox, donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor." Why would it be a sin to COVET anything belonging to your neighbor? To covet is to long to possess what belongs to someone else. Instead of being glad for the blessings of what your neighbor has, there is resentment and jealousy. It is a dissatisfaction of what God has given you.
Consider also the sin of Sodom. Most churches will say homosexuality is a sin because the men of Sodom wanted to commit homosexual rape on the angels.
Rape is a self-seeking act of forcing onto and taking away, devoid of love and kindness. If the rape in Sodom was attempted by heterosexuals...does that mean heterosexuality would be a sin? No.
Yes, Homosexual RAPE is a sin. But homosexual love between two consenting adults is NOT a sin.
Heterosexual rape is a sin. But heterosexual love between two consenting adults is NOT a sin.
There is a difference.
Homosexual love between two consenting adults does not follow the criteria for sin.
Ezekiel 16:49-50 tells the real reason Sodom was destroyed. They did not have love for their neighbors.
" 'Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen."
Now it makes sense that Sodom was destroyed because they were not living as God wishes for His people to live: to be welcoming, caring and loving people. They did not love their neighbors as much as they loved themselves. Attempting to rape the angels was a continuation of their long history of cruelty, selfishness and lack of love for God and their neighbors.
The lack of love for God and our neighbors is what makes a sin...a sin. Any act done to harm and is without love could be considered a sin. Each day we do things to people that hurt them, but we can change our actions.
Criticizing is a sin, but when LOVE is brought into the equation, instead of picking out your neighbor's faults, you will speak good words of praise to edify them.
is a sin, but with love, instead of prejudging your neighbor to be like others,
you seek the heart of the real person and their individuality. There is always
more to a person than what appears on the surface.
These good acts of love only replicate into more love. A person who is loved, grows and flourishes. A person who is looked down on, who is taken from, who is spoken badly about, who is disrespected...begins to wither.
SIN destroys relationships, hurts people, withholds love, breaks communication and causes distrust. That is how we know something is a sin. The fruits of sin are always the same: pain, injury, fear, disharmony, anger, distrust, separation, isolation, depression and sadness. Its effects are always negative.
The sins of prejudice, war, theft, betrayal, cheating, dishonesty, lying, hatred and unforgiveness...all follow this criteria.
Love means life. Love creates healing. Love brings joy. Its effects are always positive.
So when Jesus says, "Unless our righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." How do we do that? How can that be possible?
All of the laws and commandments are based on loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself. God FIRST, your neighbor SECOND, you...LAST.
Jesus loved us, overlooking and forgiving our sins. In the same way, God wants us to love our neighbors: overlooking and forgiving their sins, sharing and showing love.
The irony is, many Christian churches teach their members to point out the sins of others and to avoid them, giving themselves reasons NOT TO LOVE other people. This teaching by the church IS A SIN, because it goes against Jesus' commandment to "Love your neighbor." It goes against the commandment, to "Judge not". It goes against the commandment to "Forgive". It goes against the commandment to "Treat others as you want to be treated".
Why does love fulfill ALL the commandments? Because love is the opposite of sin. There is no end to the millions of ways we can love someone. When you love someone, you go out of your way to show them you care and support them. You overlook their weaknesses. You speak with them gently. You don't ignore them. You listen to their feelings. This is how God loves us and desires us to love others.
The rewards of love are immeasurable. The one who loves, receives love in return. The one who gives, gets gifts in return. But the one who only does the minimum gets very little in return.
Jesus showed us how to love when He told us the parable that the one who feeds the hungry, welcomes the stranger, clothes the naked, looks after the sick and visits the prisoner is the one who will be saved (Matthew 25: 31-46).
Jesus spent His ministry helping, comforting, teaching and loving people to God, and his death on the cross was the supreme act of love for us. He died so we could live.
And lest you believe that you STILL have to follow all the commandments of the Old Testament to be saved, consider Jesus' rebuke of the Pharisees who lived this way:
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel." - Matt 23:23-24
They performed the rules to the last little detail...but left out the main ingredient: LOVE.
That is the problem with legalism. The focus on avoiding sin or performing a commandment correctly can make us overlook the larger act of love which does not sin and fulfills the commandment so much MORE.
Love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and involves a heart relationship with God.
By serving God with LOVE, our deeds will surpass those of the gnat straining Pharisees. LOVE goes BEYOND following the law. Love goes beyond doing the minimum. Love is creative. LOVE DOES MORE.
The Christian who follows the legalistic way of serving God cannot tolerate sin and is the one criticizing and nitpicking all things and all people, searching for sin and living in fear of God and his neighbor. Fear of God because they may fail and fear of people because they may become infected.
"There is no fear where love exists. Rather, perfect love banishes fear, for fear involves punishment, and the person who lives in fear has not been perfected in love." - 1 John 4:18
Paul said, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." - 1 Corinthians 13:1-2
Peter said, "Love covers a multitude of sins." - 1 Peter 4:8
John said, "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love." - 1 John 4:8
According to John if you don't love...YOU MAY NOT EVEN REALLY KNOW GOD!
Many Christians are great at living perfect sinless lives, but STILL CANNOT LOVE. By loving God and loving your neighbor, you are FREE from the burden of following the LAW. By loving YOU ARE FULFILLING THE LAW.
In Hebrew, the word for love is "ahava". The root word is "hav" which is "to give". The word "love" is a verb. It is an ACTION. Love is not love, UNTIL it is an action.
But sin can be committed by doing nothing...by NOT LOVING.
A person who lives by the law is taught what NOT TO DO.
A person who lives by the Spirit is taught what TO DO: LOVE.
A Christian living in the Spirit is compelled by God to love. It is the only way. It is the way of Jesus.
God's love for us is boundless. He asks us to give that same boundless love to others. This is how God wants His children to serve Him and each other. He wants His people to be a people of love, a people of goodness and a people of service. In this way, God's Kingdom comes to the world. This is how He has always wanted it since the beginning.
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 'This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." -Matthew 22: 37-40
© 2009 Edrick
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