A New Command

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

I have been doing a lot of thinking about this Bible verse lately. I have been reading a section of the Old Testament just about every night and when you are plodding your way through books like 1 Kings, you find a lot of blood, gore and treachery, mixed in with a lot of naked ambition. Critics of the Bible and Christianity will say, if that’s how Christianity is, then I want no part of it. If the Old Testament were what Christianity is, then nobody should want any part of it. As one former Neepawa pastor said, “The Old Testament is like a schoolmaster, leading us to the New Testament.”
What many people forget, ignore or simply don’t realize is the Old Testament is largely historic. Much of it’s not intended as template for life, it’s to show what not to do. It’s to show what happens when we don’t follow God or the teachings of Jesus.
On the other hand, the verse above aptly summarizes Jesus’ teachings and the New Testament or “new command” or as some call it the new covenant. Instead of hating, killing and striving, we are to love one another.
Apparently it’s a lot easier to hate one another than to love one another. The mall massacre in Nairobi, Kenya and the church bombing in Pakistan are vivid and horrible evidence that hate is still running rampant in our society.
And critics of the Christian faith will be quick to point out that from the Old Testament to the Crusades, to numerous wars and skirmishes in between then and now, Christians have been very cruel to both their own and others. That’s true. The Muslim extremists seem to have cornered the modern market on cruelty.
The point is that while wars were rampant in the OT times and have been in modern times, it is Jesus’ way of living (or more correctly loving). While I don’t pretend for a moment to have everything figured out, this much I feel I know. There is section in the Old Testament that lists the Ten Commandments, not the ten suggestions but the Ten Commandments.

Exodus 20, New International Version (NIV)
The Ten Commandments
20 And God spoke all these words: 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Perhaps the most controversial of the commandments is the one about murder. I take it very seriously. One should not kill another person, not by murder, not by bombing or rioting, not by capital punishment and not by abortion. It also applies to war but with a hard to determine exception. Most wars are avoidable. One could debate that for days but I do believe that there have also been unavoidable wars. I leave it to God to sort that one out except to say that war needs to be avoided if at all possible.
When in doubt, refer to the first paragraph of this column.

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kwaddell@kenwaddell.ca This is a Sunrize Group internet solution (204)226-2247