Monday

The Narrow Gate

[work in progress]
If you were able to go inside the mind of a Christian, see what's really at it's core, you'll find percentages around like this of what they think being a Christian is all about:
50% Loving God, 30% doing what the Bible tells you to do, 15% Loving your neighbor and the other 5% Prayer, seeking God, meditation on God and His Word and whatever else.
Like I said the percentages might be off by 1 or 2 between "loving your neighbor" and "doing what the Bible tells you to do," but pretty much in those percentages ranges. We get the biggest percent with loving God because He does say to love Him with all your heart, soul and mind after all.

I beg to differ with those percentages because the Bible does. If you were to put the Bible in the most accurate percentages from summing up all the Bible messages from front to back cover (let's take out the equation of God loving us, because when it comes right down to it, the whole of the Bible is a living love letter from God to the creature He created), you'll have 99% of loving your neighbor and 1% of everything else and I'll tell you why.

The Bible says Jesus will forgive you of your sins; ONLY He can forgive your sins. Sins that once were, are now gone, blotted out, like they were never there. But the Bible gives us another example of what can happen to our sins in Isa 1:8: "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool."
If you look at the context of that verse you see why God will do this with your sins in the previous verse 17: "Learn to do good (for others); Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow."

Love for others is the key with this verse. We find another verse that plays out the same way in 1 Peter 4:8: "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." It's even in Proverbs 10:12: "...love covereth all sins."

Now this is not FORGIVENESS of sins with these verses, it's a covering, a translation of a verb word from the Greek that means a continuous hiding, a veiling of sins that are still there, they just can't be seen. The love talked about comes from the command of; 'Loving your neighbor as yourself'." This love is so strong, so powerful, this love will hide your sins from the very eyes of God, a love so powerful, Paul says it is greater than having a faith that moves mountains and better than all wisdom and knowledge (1 Cor 13:2).


Christ says ALL the Laws that were given to man by His Father, ALL of what the Prophets spoke, hang on loving God and what Matthew 22:39,40 says is the same as; "Loving your neighbor as yourself."

Is the author of this post writing, "Loving your neighbor is the same as loving God," when that Scripture says loving God is the greatest? Yes.

The ancient Jews have a popular word trick (Gezera Shava) in that if two separate announcements had the same word or phrase, they were equal. It was this word trick that Jesus used against the Pharisees who tried to trap Him in Matt 22:34-39:
"But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

Now if Jesus would have answered them with saying loving God was the greatest commandment, it would have taken away from what the Pharisees understood was the whole message of Jesus, loving your neighbor as yourself, but if Jesus said loving your neighbor as yourself was the greatest commandment, the Pharisees would have stoned Him for blasphemy. What does Jesus do? He uses the Jewish word 'trick' (Gezera Shava) to show both are equal:
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind."
"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
Jesus putting both commandments as being the same is what get's Him out of their snare. He does it again in the parable of the Good Samaritan with the follow up explanation of; "Who IS my neighbor?"

What about the Laws we as Christians are to keep and follow? Jesus says:
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." (Matt 5:17)
But what is "The Law?" Laws from the Old Testament? No. Paul even goes as far as saying those who follow the old law are under a "curse" (Gal. 3:10). The answer is found in Matt 19:16-19 with what Jesus tells the rich man and it's found again with Paul in Romans 13:8,9. The 'law' we are to keep is to be found in the commandment in Leviticus 19:18; "...but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.

To many it looks like Christ is reading laws off the top of His head to give you a general idea that old laws are to still be followed with what he says to the rich man, but every single prohibition He states is said for a reason and those prohibitions He did not include were left out on purpose.

To the rich man:

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery,* you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother," "love your neighbor as yourself."

And now what Paul says:

"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.”

Each prohibition listed by Christ and each prohibition listed by Paul is breaking the general rule of "Loving your neighbor as yourself" From Leviticus 19:18. Now we have the answer with the seeming contradiction Paul says in Romans 2:13: "For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous."

With what Paul is saying in the following chapter:

Romans 3:20: "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law..."

And Jesus seemingly saying we are to keep the Old Testament Laws in Matt 5:17 with:
"...Think not that I am come to destroy the law..."

Paul and Christ, two learned Jews of the Torah, treated the Torah the way the ancient Jewish nation did, they divided the laws that were between man and man (mitzvoth bein adam lachaveiro) that involved loving and doing kindness to your neighbor that we are to keep as a general law from Leviticus 19:18, and laws that were everything else (mitzvoth bein adam lamakom) that involved Laws between God and man that Christ said is fulfilled with loving and doing kindness to your neighbor. So the answer to what looks like Paul contradicting himself with Romans 2:13 and Romans 3:20 is Paul saying the 'works of the laws' (Old Testament laws and rules) will not make you right with God, it is only the 'works of the law' (Leviticus 19:18 in our actions) that will make you right with God.** 
If you stay within that commandment of Leviticus 19:18 in all you do, Christ says you fulfill ALL the Laws and Prophets in the Old Testament (Matt 7:12):
"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."

Now we know what SPECIFIC law Jesus said He will not destroy in Matt 5:17, the law found in Leviticus 19:18. Christ fulfilled the rest of the old laws in the complete work of His sacrifice on the cross and Paul drives that point home over and over again.



John 13:35 says loving your neighbor shows the world you belong to Christ:

"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Loving your neighbor shows a physical outward proof you have passed from death into Salvation according to 1 John 3:14:

"We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death."

Christ gives an example of what loving you neighbor is with the action of showing servitude in John 13:8, 12-15:

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.  “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

James 2:8 says if you do this, you're doing good with everything else:

"If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law (a ROYAL LAW was a law decreed by the King Himself (Christ) that superseded ALL previous laws in the Kingdom) according to the Scripture, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF," you are doing well.


If you truly love God with all your heart, soul and mind, you will 'love your neighbor as yourself.' Jesus said if you truly love me, you will 'love others as I have loved you.' It will be the ONLY thing we will be held accountable for when we stand before the very Throne of God when all works and faith have passed away and it will be the ONLY thing that will that will decide whether we go to Heaven or be cast in Hell (Matt 25:31-46):
 
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

And always remember, the mercy you show others will always trump the judgment of God you show and say to others:

"Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment." (James 2:12,13)



note: V'ahavtah L'rey-acha Kamocha (Love your neighbor as yourself) is steeped in Jewish tradition as is Gemilut Chassadim (bestowing loving kindness) that is supposed to be given with no fixed measure.

*Adultery is a sin that breaks the command of "loving your neighbor" in that it's an offense against another (wife, husband, mate, an extension of your fellow human being) as themselves. Now since a man loving another man does not constitute breaking "Loving your neighbor as yourself," homosexuality wouldn't fall in breaking that command with two people edifying each other in a relationship of mutual love and respect.

**I owe a great debt to author Michael Wood who explains in more detail how the ancient Jews divided their laws with the terms mitzvoth bein Adam lachaveiro and mitzvoth bein Adam lamakom in his book "Paul and Homosexuality" and not this Christian invention of dividing Jewish laws between what is "ritual/purity" and what is "moral."

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