November 20, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, day 355: Giver of Relationships

Giver of Relationships

"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not covet,' and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13: 8-10 NIV)

The Creator knew exactly what was needed, of course.

God had made the sky, land, sea, plants, trees, sun, moon, and stars...and it was all, every bit of it, "very good" (Genesis 1:31). Then He made man...and decided it was "not good" for him to be alone (Genesis 2:18). So God fashioned "a helper suitable for him" (Genesis 2:18). 

Thus, the first human relationship was not born but made. And with the latter six of His Ten Commandments, God told us how those relationships should work. 

"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. 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" (Exodus 20:12-17).

We should honor each other.
We should respect each other's lives and property and other relationships.
We should keep promises to each other.
We should represent each other truthfully.

Of all the commandments that speak to our relationship with other people, the sixth—"you shall not murder"—feels like the one I can put an automatic check mark next to...until I read this twist on it in the New Testament: "Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer" (1 John 3:15 (NIV). 

At this point, I have a few stumbling blocks. For one thing, I'm not sure I can define hate, so it's hard to know if I'm guilty of it. Also, I always think of hate as bad, and yet God has things He hates. And then there is the matter of Jesus' warning that "if anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26).

A little digging around, though, clarifies. Hate is a strong, emotional response, and the object of our hatred is detested and despised. God hates "wrongdoing," but thank goodness He loves "wrongdoers." God is passionately opposed to wrongdoing precisely because it separates wrongdoers from relationship with Himself.

As for "hating" our family, we understand that Jesus was utilizing the technique of stark contrast to make a point: namely, that our love for Him should be so strong, so total, so all-encompassing that our relative love for, well, our relatives would seem like hate by comparison.

This is all pretty easy to digest until we have to grapple with the fact that God loves and wants to redeem some people whose wrongdoings are so heinous, so repulsive, so "unforgivable," our hatred crosses over from hating the sin to hating the sinner. It feels like justifiable hate. But God loves these wrongdoers just as He loves us. We can barely process this, and yet we desperately need God's love to be incomprehensible in some ways. We need it to be beyond us. We need it to boggle our human minds. And then we need to ask God to help us put hate in its proper place.

God, help me to hate what you hate and love whom you love. Help me to passionately hate sin but passionately love sinners, of which I am the worst. In my relationships, help me to honor others, respect them, keep my promises to them, represent them truthfully. And in all this, help me seek one standard: Your voice, saying, "It is very good."

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I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to tell me what you really think. Years ago, I explained to my then-two-year-old that my appointment with a counselor was "sort of like going to a doctor who will help me be a better mommy." Without blinking, she replied, "You'd better go every day." All of which is just to say I've spent some time in the school of brutal honesty!