My dear friends:
In view of a number of recent happenings I am reminded of a scripture I make a point of looking at often, it is 1 Corinthians 13 1-3:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
What this reminds me is that no what I may do, or how much, or how powerful my works, presentation, or whatever, if I do it out of any other motive than love, then my works and actions are worthless, of no account. God hold us to no less a standard than this, we are to follow the Royal Law of Love (James 2:8). So what does that mean for us as Christians? Let's look at the topic some.
Christians are not under the Law of Moses, let's get that out of the way before we go any further. James, in the verse I cited pointed out that love is the Law's fulfillment, we are called to fulfill the law, not follow it. To that end Jesus left us to “commands,” taken from the law, but applied in a new way. We find that when Jesus was asked what the most important law was. His reply was:
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."
The first is from the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and is just that, the first and most important law for us to follow. The second is found in Leviticus 19:18, which shows both the breadth and depth of Jesus knowledge and understating of the law, that he could take two laws from different books of the law and rate them so well. Jesus would add another “command,” or Law of Love, so named because all of them require love instead of obedience, but that one isn't really relevant to this post.
I'm going to take the second one first here for reasons which will be seen later. So, what does it mean to love our neighbors I've already blogged on the subject of love in the Bible here (http://stanley-loper.blogspot.com/2011/10/love.html), it might be a good idea for you to take a moment and read through that post. However, the word Paul and Jesus used was αγαπη and it's verb form αγαπαω, which in short, is pure and unselfish love which asks nothing back from the one loved.
That kind of love tries to avoid real harm to ones neighbor. So one who loves their neighbor in that way won't steal or cheat from them, won't hold them up for ridicule, will always be ready to help them if they need it and won't retaliate against neighbors who hate or harm them beyond minimal self defense if there is no other choice. They will go so far as to take an insulting slap, as Jesus told us to. They will provide a good example of what it means to be a true follower of Christ for their neighbor to see and show them the way.
Sadly, the belief has arisen in this culture is that it is wrong to “hurt” others feelings by refusing to endorse a lifestyle a Christian sees as headed down the “wrong path,” one of the meanings inherent in the Hebrew word for “unrighteous.” Think about it, real love instead requires one to tactfully point out a wrong course of another instead of refraining from any sort of criticism, or condoning a harmful course. We all point pout the dangers of smoking to friends we love, don't we?
Which also leads us now to the “first command.” We are to love God with all our heart and being, as Jesus stated above. That means we are to put him first in our lives and live them in such a way as to please him. I won't get into everything that means, that's because doing so requires an accurate knowledge of the God who has been misrepresented by a church system which departed from God's truth to meet the requirements of a state religion. But the fact is that God requires something of those who would follow him through his son, Jesus Christ. That is that they live their lives a certain way. That way is laid out for us at Acts the fifteenth chapter:
“For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.” (Act 15:28-29)
So Christians are abjured from eating certain things, and from fornication, the point which is filling so many columns and blogs these days. The Greek word for fornication is πορνεια and covers a wide range of activities, including homosexual activities. Now, note, this is what called Christians do, they are to “abstain” from these things, not force others to. A stronger form of the same Greek verb “abstain” is found at 1 Thessalonians 5:22 and can be translated in that instance as “Avoid every appearance of evil.” Many Christians take this to mean that they are to avoid any activity which can be seen as endorsing a course of sin. Jehovah's Witnesses, for instance, have refused blood transfusions based on their understanding of these passages since the end of WWII. Many others try to avoid meat product which use blood in their diet, we are among those. To this day there are innkeepers who will refuse a room to couples they believe aren't married. And others have concluded they cannot serve celebrations of gay marriage, a form of πορνεια. That, they conclude, is a part of showing their love for both God and neighbor by avoiding “every appearance of evil.”
I can go into detail about the way fornication harms people, with unstable relationships, unwanted pregnancy and children, and a much higher rate of sexually transmitted diseases, some deadly, and here in America one in particularly still raging through the male homosexual community at a much higher rate than the rest of the population. Love for you, my neighbor moves me to point those things out. And love for God means we will never, ever accept the pursuit of πορνεια as something right, much less equivalent to following the Bible's commands, as we have all of our life as we understood them.
It is our firm belief that even for those not called to the Christian hope and race, following the plainly laid out moral course in the New Testament is the best course for anyone who wants to avoid some of the heartbreak in this world. And we appeal to anyone reading who isn't already in the race to look at the Gospel, the essential doctrine of the Christ and seek to join it. And if not, to consider the Bible's wisdom, which can help one live a life free from many of the worries of this world.