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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The 11th Commandment (?)

Therefore when he had gone out, Jesus said ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately. Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:31-35)

I’ve spent the last few days reflecting on Saturday. To wax Shakespearean, it was an liven’d event that hath dutifully unfix’t mine hair (and any small acquaintance thereunto doth prove there stands but little with which to unfix!). Overall, the entire event was certainly providential, but I still can’t explain why my knees quakened so!

I was taking my daughter to work Saturday morning and had this overwhelming knowledge that I needed to hurry home because the Jehovah’s Witnesses would be coming for a visit. “Duly noted,” I thought to myself as I made my way downtown, then back home again. I saw nobody on the road in our neighborhood, but knew (both in coming and going) that they would be there as promised.

Once back home I was preparing a little something to eat before I took my wife to work, when the doorbell rang. She answered, and a minute later came into the kitchen, “It’s for you.” Now, I had not told my wife what I already knew (that we would receive visitors) and she did not turn them away, either. I looked out the back door to make certain our youngest son was not playing outside (just in case he rang the doorbell . . . but nobody in our family rings the doorbell just once . . . or twice . . .)

I was greeted on my doorstep by a young man, who introduced himself to be a Jehovah’s Witness. Now, this was the youngest JW I have ever seen on the street, though he was accompanied by a much older (and typical for my area) female companion. The driver waited impatiently in the car.

The young man wasted no time in launching his well-memorized monologue about how the many religions of the world all point to the same God, then he asked if I believed if that was true. I told him, “No.” He handed me a couple of Watchtowers and told me how glad he was to hear me say that, because the Bible warns about false teachers in the world today. He wondered how it was that I did not believe all religions led to the same God and I quoted to him John 14:6. The two alternated speaking for a few minutes about the need for God in the world today and the precious reality of His Kingdom. I asked them to hold that thought and I would be right back. I ducked back inside and grabbed a couple of tracts, leaving them for about 30 seconds. So much for their presentation.

When I came back I handed them the tracts and said, “Let’s call this an ‘even trade.’ I have your Watchtowers, you can have my stuff.” I proceeded, “Would you consider yourself to be a ‘Good Person’?”

The both smiled at me, and said, “Yes.”

I asked, “Do you think you’ve kept the 10 Commandments?” The older lady shuffled her feet and I knew my question made her uncomfortable.

The young man said, with a little less smile, “Yes. I think I have.”

The older lady looked at the ground and shook her head, “We don’t need to worry about that. Jesus said, “I have given you a new commandment.”

I said, “Yes, He did.” Then I continued, “Have you ever told a lie?”

They were both quiet and the young man said, “Yes.” The lady glared at him, shifting her bag to her other hand and glared at me.

I probed, “What does that make you, if you tell a lie?” They were silent. “If I told a lie, what would you call me?”

He stammered, “A liar.” She got loud, “We don’t have to live like that anymore! Jesus gave us a new commandment!”

“Yes, He did,” I returned, then continued, “And Jesus said ‘If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.’ If the 10 Commandments have no weight on us today, then it’s ok to lie, right . . .?” The young man smiled and said, “you got a point there.”

I thought to myself how strange this was, that he’s not supposed to be reacting this way. He’s too young to be doing this . . . and it became suddenly clear that it was God that brought him here to hear the gospel. I asked the lady if she’d broken the 9th commandment and she told me that she used to lie before she became a Christian, but she doesn’t do it anymore. I looked at the young man and asked, “How many people must a person kill before he is a murderer?”

He said, “Just one.” He agreed with me that once a murderer, always a murderer; so, once a liar, always a liar. He shook his head in agreement. She shifted and glared. He looked at her and got uncomfortable.

I went on, “Have you ever stolen anything?” She waved her free hand and began to improvise an ethical dilemma that in my wildest imagination I could not begin to recreate even here. She tried her hardest to justify the goodness of lying and/or stealing. But I just looked at the young man and said, “once a liar . . .” and he could not take his eyes off me.

She got agitated and tried to make her way up the stair, but then said, wagging a finger “Well, God forgives sin!” and stood back in triumph. I created for their minds a courtroom scene where the judge has a list of crimes before him and a sentence must be passed. I asked with the purpose of the sentence was. The young man said, “for justice.”

I pointed out that one cannot stand before the judge and expect that he will forgive on the basis of the seeming goodness of a criminal, how if the judge is a good judge he would pass down the sentence in accordance with justice. Then I told them about the difference between a good lawyer and the best lawyer (one knows the law and the other knows the judge), and how conscience convicts of sin, especially where Jesus Himself says, “if you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” I showed how we are guilty of breaking His perfect law and there is none righteous, not even one. I was able to remind them that a day has been appointed that Jesus judge the world in righteousness. They agreed.

But then I asked, “Don’t you think it odd that Jesus is the judge? Why isn’t God the judge?”

The lady stammered a moment and the young man shifted. She tried to change the subject: “do you go door-to-door?” and “do you go witnessing?” I instead asked if they’d kept the 2nd Commandment. They both dove for their Bibles because they did not know what it was . . . nor where to find it. It told them what it was, and before I knew it, we were actually going the one place I really did not want to go. I said, “While you and I can both stand here and claim to be Christian, the primary difference right now between you and me is that one of us is breaking the 2nd commandment, by creating for ourselves a god of our own understanding, a god of convenience. The other one of us worships the God of the Bible.” They looked stunned.

I told them how Jesus could judge the world in righteousness because He is God. He can also judge the world as a man because He is both fully human and fully divine. The lady did not like that. She asked me with “How can Jesus say no one can come to the Father if they are the same person?” I turned to the young man and told him to look up John 1:14 while I tried to answer her with an illustration of how I could be both a father and son, yet Almighty God be disallowed that same consideration. The lady began to make noises while I was talking so she could not hear, and because she did not want her companion to see that verse. I was going to take them to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 to show who does NOT enter the Kingdom of God, but I got lost in the conversation somewhere and was watching the young man silently read the right verse.

Before he read the verse, I told the lady to look up Hebrews 1:1-3. She refused, but he read his anyway. I then told them what Hebrews said and began to explain how Jesus is God and not an angel, and I questioned them how it was that God and Jesus both share the same attributes. This was when the car at the curb “cued” their need to depart by inching forward. The lady turned to leave.

The young man smiled again, and shook his head and said, “I’d like to come back. Can I come back for Bible study?” The lady spun on her heels because I knew as she knew that a follow-up visit (if any) would NOT be made by the same visitors, but the question had to be asked. I looked at the young man and my hand suddenly shot out and he took it. I found myself saying, “I would welcome YOU! Sure, come on back.” Now it was my turn to be stunned.

He said, “when?” I told him, “anytime.” As they turned to leave, I felt the need to add, “Make sure to read your Bible between now and then.” And they left.

After they left, I’ve been thinking about that new commandment Jesus gave. As I’ve been thinking I found myself tossing this about this: “How do we see the disciples living this out?” Interestingly, we find the Holy Spirit filling men and women and how they were used by God in the power of the Spirit to preach the gospel; but, we see or hear very little about how the disciples themselves carried out that new command. We see and hear Paul instructing early Christians to beware of false teachers, false gospels and to be obedient to the Holy Spirit.
But how did the disciples themselves love on another?

What interpersonal difficulties did they face? Peter we can imagine, but how did it go between Matthew and Nathaniel? What were Andrew and Simon like? When (if ever) were they less inclined to love one another?

The world saw and heard their witness. How exactly did they see them struggle with this command? I bring this up because if we have difficulty enough carrying out Command 1through 10 (and by His grace and mercy are able to be apply forgiveness by faith in Christ Jesus), how often do we break Command 11? Is there any wonder why the world through our disobedience to this command is deceived to think that Christianity itself is a failure?

I pray God brings that young man back and that he would realize that that new commandment does NOT override or replace the Ten Commandments. Loving one another does not mean to tolerate heresy, nor does it mean that we ignore the tough stuff in life and placate ourselves with sanctified denials. We are left to love God by properly representing Him by excelling still more in our love to one another by not lying to one another, by not stealing from one another, by not pursuing lustful passion with one another; rather that we by sanctified and obey the Holy Spirit thus bringing glory to God in Christ Jesus.

Though the JW’s consider personal Bible study to be idolatry, I pray that young man reads the Bible and his conscience is pricked.

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