Obeying Jesus’ Commandments
I paused for a good while when I came to one of the comments on my answer to the On Faith question last week. In his response, Danny (PILOTER101) references Jesus’ farewell discourse to the disciples before his arrest: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
I agree completely that we are required, as Christians, to obey Christ and to keep His commandments. The sticking point is what His commandments are.
Faithful people have disagreed about God’s rules since Scripture was written down and probably even far before that. It is reflected in the first stories of Genesis where Abel’s offering is accepted by God while Cain’s is not (though God is kind to Cain in the end, Genesis 4:1-16). And much of the writing of the prophets concerns disagreements over what obedience to God means.
Micah sets out the problem with this question, “Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil?” In his time, sacrifice in the temple made scrupulously according to the rules was thought by many to be the way to be obedient to God, to obey the commandments. Micah challenged those beliefs with another question: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Paul, too, had to help the first churches find a way to live with disagreement over how to obey Jesus’ commandments. Paul saw with his own eyes the Holy Spirit falling upon Gentiles who were an abomination to his faith. Yet Paul knew there were fellow believers in Christ who adhered to Jewish law and expected that of others. So did one have to follow Jewish law to follow Jesus?
On the whole, Paul counseled a “live and let live” resolution, acknowledging that there are many paths to God through Christ. He was most severe with those who were adamant in their teaching that theirs was the one and only way to be faithful. For Paul, the test of one’s living is the fruit of the Holy Spirit — which echoes Micah’s justice, kindness and humility (Galatians 5:22-23).
Like Christians in all times and places, Danny and I agree that obeying Jesus’ commands is our duty. And like the faithful always have, we disagree over how that is to be done. I see Jesus’ commandments reflected in the eternal lesson from Micah: that we are to embody kindness and justice — what Jesus calls “loving my neighbor.” Our job is to do that as best we can, trusting that Jesus will sort it out in due time, and that God’s kingdom has room for us all.