The world is spinning – seemingly out of control. Divergence not diversity is the theme. Lies trump truth. Pain and hurt, shame and guilt abound. Vile comments, pictures, and behaviors sear our souls. Violence and human misery cause our hearts to despair. How can we live in these times? What can we do to share the mind of Christ in 2018? The word that floated into my mind as I pondered how to live faithfully in today’s world is HARMONY. Watch this space for ideas on how to live in harmony in 2018. And share your ideas about living in harmony in a comment.
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“Israel, listen! Our God is the Lord! Only the Lord! Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength. These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds” (Deuteronomy 6: 4-9; CEB).
These words from the book of Deuteronomy were so important to the Hebrews that they were enshrined in morning and evening prayers as the Shema – which simply means hear or listen. This crucial connection between obedience to the one true God and generous and abiding love for that God was crucial for the Hebrews. It was taught from infancy. It was affixed to their door posts and was inscribed on scrolls placed in little boxes and worn on their heads and arms while praying.
When asked by a religious teacher (and legal scholar), “What is the most important commandment,” Jesus quotes this Old Testament verse (Mark 12: 29-30) which makes it an important commandment for Christians as well. In the Shema and in the Gospels, the concepts of the lordship of God and the necessity to love God with everything we have are are locked together. In order to live in harmony with God we must obey and simultaneously love God.
For 21st century Christians, I believe, this is a difficult combination – obedience is required; love is offered. We can understand this better if we recognize that love is an action. To the Hebrews, love made obedience possible. As Timothy Mackie says,
“You love someone when you act in loyalty and faithfulness. And so for Israel, to love meant faithful obedience to the terms of their covenant relationship. Obedience to these laws was never about legalism or trying to earn God’s favor. Obedience in the Old Testament is about love and listening. If an Israelite loves God, it will make it easier to listen and absorb his teachings and guidance. This is why the words “listen” and “love” are so tightly connected and repeated through these opening speeches of Deuteronomy” (The Bible Project.com).
Living in harmony with God is a multi-faceted experience. But first and foremost we must recognize the Lordship of God. Our response is to “hear” him and love him with”all [our] passion and prayer and intelligence and energy” (Mark 12:30; MSG).This is a commitment far deeper than quoting scripture and attending church services – as important as those things are. It means giving ourselves body and soul to the Lordship of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It required stamina and sacrifice and devotion and courage throughout history – and most certainly requires it in the present.