In time of disagreement, remember the Commandments

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2017

I have struggled this past month with what to say in this column today. Mainstream news, social media, press releases, conferences, and interviews from Washington and Raleigh are disturbing to say the least. I have dear friends on both sides (or should I say many sides) of all the issues confronting us, and our disagreements grieve me, but I have chosen a path that I believe is given to us by God that is beyond dispute.

In Christian doctrine, we adhere to the belief that Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, was, and is, the embodiment of the will of God: “And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.” (John 12:45-46)

So, what did Jesus do and say that conveys to us what God wants us to be and do?

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God gave human beings a basic set of rules on which to base our lives. We call those the Ten Commandments which were first given to Moses (Exodus 20:1-17). Jesus gave us a summary of this Law, and he makes it the core of all desirable human behavior.

When a scribe wanted to know what was the greatest law, Jesus answered, “The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31) This commandment to love one another as we are to love God is explicitly addressed by Jesus numerous times in the Gospels through his words and actions.

John the Baptist, whom Jesus upheld as indisputable, said, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” (Luke 3:11)

To the “rich young ruler” who asked how to attain eternal life, Jesus said, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21) However, the young man was unwilling to do so and “went away grieving.”

Jesus also taught that our faithfulness will be judged by our actions. He said, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?”

And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:35-40)

There are a great many more examples in the Bible of what Jesus taught about how we should be and do in the world, but there are far too many to cite here. But his earliest followers were clear about what they had heard him say, and they took his teaching to heart: “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” (Acts 2.44-47)

“There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4:34-37)

Our present conundrum, in our culture, social structures, politics, and religions, lies in the fact that we and our institutions have failed to follow God’s will as set forth by the Law given to Moses and the teachings of Jesus Christ on that Law, and we have no excuse.