“Teach them to obey everything that I have commanded”

For some reason when I read this verse the image that pops into my mind is that of little Arnold Drummond (played by Gary Coleman) on the show “Different Strokes.”  Anytime Arnold questioned something said by his brother, Willis, he would cock his head to the side, pucker up is face and say the now famous line–“Wuh-choo talkin’ bout Willis?”

Sure, some of Jesus’ teachings sound real nice, particularly in our anything goes tolerant society.  Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength–great, no problem.  Love you neighbor as you love yourself–cool, got it.  In fact, Jesus said that there was nothing else more important than these two simple laws of life–love God and love neighbor.

But wait, Jesus didn’t just say “love God and love neighbor.”  He said love God with all your:

Heart–Wait.  You mean my whole heart must be directed toward him?  Not toward my wife or children?  Not to my job or my hobbies?  Not to fulfilling the socially accepted norms for a 30-something American male?  Nope, Jesus said “with all your heart.”  Wow.  Perhaps C.S. Lewis said it best, and I paraphrase here–the problem is not that we love other people too much, but that we love God too little.  If we would only see that by giving our entire heart to God, in the end we have more heart with which to love others.

Soul–Okay, what in the world does that mean?  Honestly, I’m not sure.  But perhaps we can find some clues in what it is not.  It’s not dealing with our affections and desires–that’s our heart.  It’s not our intellectual and reasoning skills or our mental capacity to live and work–that would be our mind.  And, obviously, it’s not dealing with the physical realm of life–that would be our strength.  I think we can safely conclude that while the soul remains a bit elusive, at it’s core it has to do with values, priorities, and worship.

Is is REALLY God that occupies the highest place in our lives?  Really?  Is he the first priority, first thought, and foundation of all our thoughts, words, and actions?  Is he truly the focus of my worship…or do I say that (and perhaps even believe it) but live in such a way it is clear that really my family, career, hobbies, lusts, or something else hold the top spot?

Mind–How do I love God with my mind?  By meditating on his word.  By not wasting my mind on meaningless and trivial things.  By using the intellectual and reason that I’ve been given for good.  By maximizing my mental capacity to understand the will of God in my life.  And maybe a part of that is not making a habit of mind-numbing practices like drugs, excessive alcohol, or too much television (ooh…someone’s not going to like that…legalism, legalism!).  Take it to Jesus.

Strength–Am I taking advantage of my youth?  Am I taking advantage of my age?  Am I giving God the best years of my life?  Or am I waiting until the best has passed…and only then giving God what is left.  Through the OT the Israelites were reminded to give the first fruits and the best of their flocks as their offering to God.  We must do the same in all things.

Likewise, Jesus didn’t just say “love you neighbor.”   He to love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself–treat him or her the way you would want to be treated and show them the same respect you expect of yourself.  The saying goes that we often judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions.  That’s a no-go in God’s Kingdom–we just afford others the same lee-way we give to ourselves.

And finally, Jesus takes away the remaining loop-hole by defining for us who is our neighbor.  It’s not just the family next door, the people with whom it is to your advantage to live peaceably.  No, your neighbor is the person in need, the man you’ve been taught to hate, the woman who deserves nothing.  It’s the person you see everyday…but rarely pay attention to.

See Jesus spent a lot of time telling us how to really accomplish those two seemingly simple laws–loving God and loving neighbors; and his explanations left the people of his day scratching their heads, just as we continue to do today.  Love my enemies?!?  Pray for those who persecute me? What do you mean with that story about the Good Muslim?  Some people just don’t deserve forgiveness, let along continual forgiveness.  Don’t judge anyone?  Come on, that’s our favorite past time!

If we were to really “live as Jesus lived” (1 John 2:6), what would that look like? I’ll let you think on that one.


0 thoughts on “Matthew 28:20a — “Say What?”

  1. Yes, and I would add–Whenwe accomplish these two things (though none of us will ever do perfectly in the absolute sense) we are fulfilling the command of God to “be holy as I am holy,” as holiness is found primarily in these two supreme laws.

  2. We are called to strive for Christlikeness–what I like to call “living above the lowest common denominator” (Phil 2:5, 1 John 2:6, Lev 19:2, 1 Cor 1:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16, and more).

    John Wesley talked a lot about “Christian perfection,” a term misunderstood by most modern readers. Biblical perfection is not perfectus (from Latin meaning without fault, 100%, without any defect or weakness) but rather telios (from Greek meaning fulfilling its purpose). My wife would quickly agree that I am not absolutely perfect in the perfectus sense. I make mistakes, at times I let her down, and even occasionally say mean things. But I think that she would agree that I am the “perfect husband” in the telios sense–that I fulfill my purpose as her husband. And part of that telios perfection is in seeking forgiveness during those times when I am less than perfectus.

    No human being will be perfectus this side of heaven, but we are all called to telios. We are called to fulfill our purpose as God’s children, as agents of his mission in this present world. We must strive to live sober, righteous, and godly lives among the people around us–we must live “missional” lives. Will we stumble occasionally–absolutely. But part of that telios perfection is our quick and authentic search for reconciliation with our heavenly Father, who longs for us to be near to him.

  3. Well are you saying we sin or we make human mistakes in a way that is neither malicious nor intended to harm anyone?
    That is a very important distinction. Now if you say mean things to hurt your wife when you’re not happy with her I’d say that was pretty serious, but if you say something that is misunderstood then that is human imperfection.
    There’s a big differance in sin and humanity. It’s not close at all.
    We are to be perfect or holy, both meaning without sin even though we are not perfect in our humanity. So I guess it all depends on the intent of the thing.

  4. Of course…a key factor is one’s intention, the inclination of one’s heart. The entirely sanctified person will not (or cannot) act from a motive/desire to harm or hurt or cause damage. In our human imperfection do we sometimes harm or hurt others–yes, but the holy heart will seek quick reconciliation and restoration of the damaged relationship. We are continually being perfected and growing in grace.

    I’ve looked at your website, tell me a little about yourself. One thing that jumped out at me (and I don’t mean this as a criticism but rather an observation and acknowledgment of a vast difference in the contexts of our respective ministries) was the statement on the editors page–“to war… to strike out… to fight against all that oppose truth and righteousness.”

    I live and work in a predominately Muslim context. In my faith and cultural background I am an extreme minority. This statement is EXACTLY the same statement that we often hear from radical Muslims and justification for their violent actions–it is the definition of jihad for extremists. If any Muslims do ever read your blog, this statement is, in essence, declaring jihad, the implication being violence. Just an observation.

  5. I’m glad you asked that… No one has ever asked me about it before or given me leave to explain what that means.

    First of all thank you for visiting my website, I appreciate your stopping by. Now let me quote you some scriptures before giving you the context and meaning.

    For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 6And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
    2 Corinthians 10:3-6

    10Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. Ephesians 6:10-16

    Jihad means a holy war if I am correct, well the only war that is holy in the eyes of God is a spiritual conflict. John the Baptist told the soldiers who came to him to do violence to the blood of no man. Therefore I don’t endorse physical violence or even violent thoughts or tendencies. I don’t endorse getting revenge or holding grudges or not speaking to your spouse because they did something you didn’t like.

    Yet we are at war. Paul wrote, “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” 1 Corinthians 9:26-27

    When the devil tempts me to get an attitude with someone I go to war with him. When he tries to make me act in a way that God would not be pleased with I resist him. When my body desires food and I’m on a fast, I bring it under subjection. When my body tries to get me to give in to fleshly desires I rebuke it and bring it into subjection to the law of Christ.
    When I am tired and I don’t feel like doing what I know to be right, I keep under my body and bring it into subjection. I make it act right. I do whatever is necessary because I want to please Him who chose me to be a soldier.

    No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. 2 Timothy 2:4

    Yet not only that… I war also against principalities against spiritual wickedness in high places… I fight against the devil also when he uses false teachers to try to convince people that it’s okay to sin or that we all sin more or less everyday. I war against that because they are holding souls in captivity. They are leading souls in bondage and I’m commissioned to spread the gospel of Christ to every creature. Therefore I oppose anything that is false. David said I hate every false way.
    Jesus also dealt harshly with the false teachers of His day in order to expose them to the people.
    God has commanded us to war against Babylon, which is religious confusion, religions of men rather than the Truth of God’s word which only is able to free a soul from the bondage of sin.
    I war and fight, but my weapons are not carnal. I don’t fight with my hands or my feet or my tongue, but I use the Word of God and prayer.

    I war, but the battle is not mine but the Lord’s. Christ came to destroy all the works of the devil and I am merely a tool used to do His work in the earth. I am nothing within myself, but it is Christ who worketh in me. Of myself I can do nothing, but through Christ I can do all things.

  6. Brother, I complete understand where you were coming from in the statement on your site. I was not meaning to imply that you did endorse violence, but only that some people reading that would make that assumption. Communication is not only what we say but also what is heard–and what people here is influenced greatly by their cultural, religious, and linguistic background.

    In our work (in a predominately Islamic society) we avoid military-based vocabulary, not as a denial of the Biblical witness, but as a means of appropriate and meaningful communication of truth to those who will associate this type of language with their previously held ideas of jihad, which as I mentioned in the past post, would use exactly the same words you have used. We cannot allow ourselves, through our words and actions, to be stumbling block, shutting off any possibility of understanding before the is opportunity given to understand.

  7. Well here in where I work we have people who are more prone to passivity than violence so I do understand that there is a difference.
    Here the challenge is to get people into a mindset to fight for what they believe in, to stand up for what they say they are willing to die for.
    Therefore the need for language that denotes war and fighting and standing up.
    Yet for your observation I did change strike out to speak out that others may have a better understanding, however if anyone takes time to read the entirety of the statement and the related scriptures they will know and understand the context in which it is given.
    Thank you for your observation, your help is appreciated.

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