What We Believe: The Commands of God (continued)
Last month we looked at the Commands of God and how if we see God first as authority and judgment, the Commands of God become a burden. Yet if we see God first as love, then His Commands become for us an opportunity in which to serve Him with thanks for what He has done, knowing what God wants. Yet we may understand little of the Commandments themselves. Over the next several articles we will look at the Commandments to understand the heart of their meaning.
The First Commandment states, “You shall have no other gods.” We may think it easy to keep this command, as long as we have not worshiped some false god by title. Yet looking at the meaning of this Command sheds additional light. The Commandment means, “We should fear, love and trust God above all things.” So while we may reject the idea of another divine being in competition with God, we often place other material or abstract things above Him. A “god” does not need to be another conscious being, but any distraction to serving the Triune God- Father, Son and Holy Spirit alone.
Where have we gone astray? Where has God taken a back seat in our life? What have we placed as our top priority over the worship of God alone? The pursuit of wealth and our trust in it, popularity, power, social activities during time normally set aside for worship in church, when we trust in government or programs rather than God’s provisions, when we fail to see God at work in them, or when we fear the reaction of family and friends to our expressions of faith more than our concern for pleasing God, in other words, being embarrassed of our own faith. While we may keep the literal words of this or any of the Commands, we often find we have broken the heart of the Command.
This First Commandment, along with the next two (not misusing the name of the Lord your God, and remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy), deal with our relationship directly to God, while the remaining seven Commands deal with our relationship with one another. We sum up the first three as commanding us to love God, the last seven as commanding us to love one another. We sum up all ten with the instruction: love.
In the Bible, following the Commandments, there is no section allowing exceptions or modifications to the Commands of God. They are clear and direct in their call to us- love God and love your neighbor. Yet we allow differences of opinion, of culture, likes and dislikes, personalities and compatibilities to affect our ability to love as God commands. We do not keep the Commands, neither the ones that call us to love our neighbor, nor the ones that call us to love God above all things. Yet with these human shortcomings, like any other sin, we have one who kept every command and kept all of God’s Law perfectly for us — our Lord Jesus Christ. His perfect life and righteousness is given to us in the cross and His resurrection, that by faith in what Jesus accomplished to satisfy God’s wrath over the sin of His people, we have forgiveness and life again, an opportunity to keep the Commands, not as a condition for, but in response to God’s saving grace to us. This is what we believe.
To learn more about God’s Commands, our churches are: St. Paul Lutheran Church in Fredonia (672-3731), Immanuel Lutheran Church in Gowanda (532-4342) and Trinity Lutheran church in Silver Creek (934-2002).