Our command for filial love

Readings for February 23, 2020

Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18
Psalm 103:1-4, 8, 10, 12-13
1 Corinthians 3:16-23
Matthew 5:38-48


Without context, the Ten Commandments can seem daunting, if not overtly dictatorial, with all the “Thou Shalls” and demanding “Thou Shalt Nots.” They are, after all, commands and not merely a framework for a deep discussion on the meaning of life. Noting what is obvious, however, the Ten Commandments are neither the beginning nor the end of the unfolding story of our return to God after having fallen to sin. Rather, they are the foundation of the story, building blocks beset by a merciful God wanting us to join Him in His Kingdom.

In the full text of our salvation history, then, it becomes more and more clear that the Commandments are grouped into areas of our lives that will help us to be holy, or, to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The first three Commandments establish God as holy and alone worthy of our praise. The fourth Commandment stands as the bridge between love for God and love for each other, establishing  the family unit as the model of the Trinity, a shared bond of obedient love, honor, and faithfulness. The remaining six complete the filial model of love and extend it out to all of God’s created beings—our neighbors. 

This calling to filial love of neighbor is both an acknowledgment of perfect creation by God and our commission to live in the holiness that perfection demands. This Sunday’s readings take the Commandments and plop them into a lesson on how we are meant to live our lives in holiness. Loving neighbor, carrying no hatred toward our brother or sister, and praying for our enemies are the principles that make up our instruction manual for living by God’s will. 

I have written and said many times that there are three simple rules: First, love God. Second, love others. Third, for anything else, refer to numbers one and two. Simply stated, we are to live in a manner that reflects and returns God’s love for us. Which isn’t to say that life is, or should be, a continual hug-fest. Loving those that have offended or harmed us is incredibly difficult, even seemingly impossible. But our call to holiness is a call to perfection and there is nothing easy about striving for perfection.

Personally, I fail at this every day. But after I fail, I hope and pray for God’s unending mercy, recall that I must rely solely on Him, and seek His help through prayer. And then I try again. For God, in His holiness, has commanded this filial love for me to carry out. And in honor and obedience, and with his unfailing help, that is what I will continue to strive to do.

O Lord my God, You have given me the instructions to live a life of holiness, shining Your light on the path that leads to You. May I, with Your help, follow that path. May all I do reflect Your love for me and my love for others. Amen

12 thoughts on “Our command for filial love

    1. Funny…

      You went to the movies… So did I… in my mind. You said Braveheart but I was thinking of Lee Van Cleef and Clint Eastwood blowing up the bank in El Paso. (They had to bust out the jail too)

      But I wouldn’t want to miss a chance to pain my face like Braveheart and yell FREEDOM.

      Might be a bit gut wrenching, but it makes a statement.

      (I’m getting plum stupid with this now)

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Good thoughts here. Thanx for sharing. Context… yes! The love of God found in the commands of love FOR God and each other, and the second is in many ways an exploration of the first! And the third??? Yes, everything else hangs on this.. so don’t blow this!

    Fun fact: I once preached a sermon on Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Ox! It was for a homiletics class. The brochure advertising it had me swimming against the tide. It was so anachronistic that I had to get funny to make it “apply” – and I was just learning the craft. I bombed. But it was fun.

    Sermon bombed, but I was quite successful, actually. I am certain to this day that NONE of the pupils who listened to me preach that sermon are coveting their neighbors’ oxen.

    I should put that on my resume!

    Beyond the fun facts, the 10 Commandments are so powerful and meaningful in form, function, meaning … as well as content. There is soooooooooo much in them to explore. I don’t think if I had 10 lifetimes that I would exhaust them.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Just get it posted on the sign out front of the church: “This Sunday only: Agent X brings a message entitled Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbors Ox”

        Just hope the band headlining at the bar on the corner doesn’t say on their sign: “Saturday nite only: Free Beer!”

        Liked by 1 person

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