A new wife willingly submits to her husband in all things as to her lord, and he lays down his life for her in all things, loving her as he loves himself. These are commandments, but why do they do them?
For no other reason, but love.
A son patiently listens to his old father’s advice, given unasked again and again, and continues to abide by his old mother’s household rules, fussy though they seem. This is commandment, but why does he fulfill it?
For no other reason, but love.
I have heard of people—indeed, I have seen them and known them—who go about performing their acts of righteousness without a hint of joy, carrying their burdens as if they were heavy, and bullying others, even trying to impose their unhappy fate on them.
Then, I have met people who, pretending to be amicable and full of joy beneath masks of boastfulness, flaunt their freedom from commandments, and solicit our approval of their immorality by the nice way they greet and treat us.
One day, I was helping a young married couple move out of their old place to a new townhouse just around the corner. Just as we were loading the last few items into my van, another red vehicle almost identical to mine pulled up in the spot next to us.
A dad who looked about my age hopped out of the driver’s seat, followed by a young couple from the other side, and after a mutual greeting between us, they explained they were moving into the townhouse right next door.
After propping the house door open, the kids started carrying small items in. I assumed this was another young couple, ‘twenty-somethings,’ moving in with the assistance of one of their dads, not an uncommon situation. I’ve done things like this.
The dad waxed very loquacious with me and the mom of the young couple I was helping. ‘Yeah, I’ve had five kids, and done this moving thing a lot. This is my daughter, one of the five. She’s twenty-three and all ready to live on her own.’
‘Oh, she’s moving in by herself?’ we asked. ‘Well, yeah, but I’m sure her boyfriend will be spending most of his time here,’ responded the dad with a little laugh and a mischievous look on his face. Ah, so he knew, he even expected, this. He approved.
This is not going to be a rant about young men and women sleeping together and making love before they are married. This way of ‘courtship’ is now almost universal, even in the case of church-going young adults. It’d be embarrassing to be a twenty-six year old virgin.
Modern churches, like modern society, being accustomed to a ‘cart before the horse‘ mentality—that’s what the automobile age has brought us—little preach or teach biblical morality, or if they do, they practice ‘safe sex’ with their members: ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.’ It’s better for all concerned.
‘Cart before the horse’ mentality? Yes.
Communion before (or without) confessing the faith: the means to unity, not the fruit of it.
The ‘Christmas season,’ not the twelve days starting with Christmas and ending with Epiphany, the culmination and satisfaction of the forty days of fasting leading up to it, but the two months starting practically with Hallowe’en: the means to happiness, but not happiness, or even joy, itself.
Living together, with all that it implies, as a sort of ‘practice run’—though not a dry run—of the idea of marriage: Like the offer of a ‘no strings attached’ trial of a confidently good product such as the Oreck vacuum cleaner.
‘No strings attached’ means you can return it with no loss to you, not exactly the same as a ‘money back guarantee,’ but in either case, the offer is simply not unconditional or free.
Virginity is a gift that a man brings a woman, and a woman brings a man. It’s a gift that can only be offered once. There’s no taking it back, either. Why is it we’re not troubled by these uncomfortable words? ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one.’ (Ephesians 5:31) Don’t we ever wonder what this means?
Back to the dad helping his daughter move into her new place, with her boyfriend’s help. Friendly people, comfortable to be around, affable. Commandments? What are they? What do you say? They’re things that God (whoever or whatever that is) wants us to do or to refrain from doing? Oh, I see, you mean the ‘thou shalt not’s.’ Give me a break. We’re not five year olds!
The positive ones are like invitations from an impossibly wealthy Benefactor to perform a simple task, so that He can reward you.
The negative ones are like lines that you must not, at all costs, cross. It’s the same Benefactor, but now He’s warning you of imminent disaster.
Think of the lines painted on millions of miles of automobile roads all over the planet. Have you ever noticed that no one, but no one, and especially during rush hour, just drives his car meandering all over the highway in total disregard of the lines? What would happen if he did is too terrible to imagine. We have all witnessed terrifying things on the road, a car veers out of its lane—the driver distracted, drunk, or even having a heart attack or stroke—and in no time at all an often fatal pile up of fast-moving vehicles takes place.
If only we could see that the lines we’re commanded not to cross are like that.
Every action has its consequences, yet because we no longer really believe in ‘cause and effect’ we are like drivers who play hop-scotch on highways during rush hour, dodging in and out of traffic to get where they want to be faster than anyone else. We believe in luck, if we believe in anything. Yet, even luck runs out in the end, for everyone who relies on it.
Why do we follow the commandments? Is it to ‘gain heaven,’ or earn our way into a respectable family? Are our good deeds like bargaining chips which we’ll be able to bring to the table of eternity? Can they pile up like the ‘excess merits of the saints’?
No, as holy prophet Isaiah sings,
Like a young man marrying a virgin,
so will the One who built you wed you,
and as the Bridegroom
rejoices in His Bride,
so will your God rejoice in you.
Isaiah 62:5 Jerusalem Bible
Someone loves us like that, and we in turn have no desire anymore but to return that love.
Commandments? They are our joy, we fulfill them, we follow them because we follow Him who is our Joy, and all for no other reason, but love.
I run the way of Your commandments,
since You have set me free.
Psalm 119:32 JB