Three weeks ago we looked at the Decalogue, or the Ten Commandments that we read in Exodus 20. Most people have at least heard of them, even if they don’t know very much about them. Let’s briefly review:
1, 2, and 3 are related to how we love and worship God.
4 is about how we “do” holiness.
5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 are about how we love our neighbors.
This morning we revisit this very important list of how we do life and love. Jesus has been preaching and teaching and is now being challenged by both the Sadducees and the Pharisees about how religious or righteous people should live.In Matthew 22:15 we read, Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words.
And in verse 23, That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. They didn’t want to know—they wanted to trick him.
And then in verse 34 . . .
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
According to some Jewish literature, the rabbis discussed the 613 commandments attributed to Moses to determine the most important one(s). they would debate which of these laws were more important than the others, and it is in this context that they challenged Jesus. The “expert in the law” asked the question, expecting Jesus to fall flat on his face, as he could not possibly be as expert as the questioner.
Now the rabbis had expanded God’s list of 10 to 613 by carefully reading all of Moses’s writings in the Old Testament. That’s a lot to remember. That is why they needed “experts” in the law to tell them what they should do and not do. They had counted up 248 positive “you shall” and 365 negative “you shall not” commands in the scripture.
Jesus had been challenged with identifying the greatest commandment; instead he states 2 commandments: love of God and love of neighbor—side by side and declares that these 2 are essential for understanding all Israel’s scriptures.
When we consider how closely these 2 commandments are related, we remember that we are created in God’s own image. We are intimately connected to God, and it is only when we re-member that that we can live as God has intended us to. It is only because we are created in God’s image that we can be loveable.
The rabbis prided themselves on being religious. On being correct. On being the model and example for everyone else in the whole world. BUT to be truly religious is to love God, and to love the men and women made in God’s own image; and to love God and humankind not with a sentimental love, but with the total commitment of heart and muscle and bone.
This brings us to a challenge of our own. How do we KNOW and how do we DO this?
Religions are generally defined by one of two things: belief or practice. These are the concepts of orthodoxy (belief in a doctrine) and orthopraxy (emphasis on practice or action). This contrast is often referred to as ‘correct belief’ versus ‘correct practice.’ Or . . . “the letter of the law” versus “the heart of the law.”
Jesus linked these 2 commandments together—telling us that we cannot love God without loving each other.
The rabbis—the “experts” in the law were not interested in orthopraxy. In “Right Practices.” They were interested in debating and arguing the fine points of language. Of nuance. Of counting coup. I am going to say right up front that it is much easier to keep score than it is to play in the game. Easier to have a list of boxes to check than it is to rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
I have asked some people to help me with some additional scriptures this morning—you have a list of them on your worship folders, but we are going to read them right now, and then relate them to what our Lord told those experts.
Our tribe’s Core Values: Christian – Missional – Holiness
We are going to explore the orthodoxy and orthopraxy of those 3 core values this morning.
This means that we believe in Christ. But more importantly, more intimately, what it REALLY means is that we are Christ followers. We want to look more like Christ. To walk more like Christ. To sound more like Christ. As a tribe, we embrace this necessity.
Rev. Andi Blanton is going to tell us a little bit of what that looks and sounds like here at Chandler First Church:
“We exist to reveal the presence and character of God in the world, being transformed as we participate in God’s transforming work in the world.” 1 We are Christian because we love God, but we are also missional because we love God. Melissa Anderson is going to tell us a little bit of what that looks and sounds like here at Chandler First Church:
This is where orthodoxy meets orthopraxy and joins hands. We are Christian because we love God. We are missional because we love God and want to extend that love into all the space around us. But we are a HOLY people because God insists that is a condition for God’s people in order for us to be in relationship with God. In Leviticus 19:1 we read, Be holy, because I, GOD, your GOD, am holy. It is OUR responsibility to seek God—purity or holiness is not just for us! It is for God.
Eugene Peterson said God here “insists on a continuity between himself and the people we are to become. Holiness is not a bland attribute of God. It’s wild and undomesticated. Holiness is an interior fire, a passion for living for God, a capacity for exuberance in living out the life of God in the details of our day-to-day lives. Holy is not a word that drains the blood out of life. It is a word that gets our blood pumping, pulsing life through our veins and putting color in our cheeks.” 2
So holiness defines our relationship with God and with people. As God’s people, it is in our DNA. It means that God has chosen us, and set us apart for a special purpose. And that special purpose is to reveal the presence and character of God in the world, being transformed as we participate in God’s transforming work in the world.
So how do we do that? What is in your hand . . . in case you don’t recognize that reference, it is what God asked Moses when God called him out of his comfort zone into God’s purposes.
What is in YOUR hand? This morning I want you to honestly allow God to use who you are for God’s purposes.
Originally preached Sunday, October 29, 2017