A New Commandment
by C.A. Phillips
As a youth baseball umpire, I have had to acquaint myself like never before with the rules of the game. You may have never realized it, but there are countless rule books that govern our national pastime. There are park rules, league rules, organizational rules, tournament rules, rules specific to high school baseball, ground rules, Major League Baseball Rules, and the list goes on.
Each year, our umpire organization gathers to go through weeks of training, which includes poring over the rules of the game, and walking through unusual, real-life scenarios that have happened on the field of play. It’s always amusing to relive some of these mind-twisting, head-scratching incidents. Even more hysterical is listening to other umpires’ takes on what calls should have been made. Typically, no umpire in the room (except the head of our group) knows the answer. Most guys get part of it right, but not all of it.
There was a time God’s people needed a universal rule book to help eliminate confusion as well. To give them a target and direction for their lives and their actions. When you look back in the Old Testament, we see the Lord handing down ten guidelines to, essentially, help open the eyes of His people to sin. Beyond that, God gave Israel the Law to show them how much they needed Him.
More than 1,500 years would pass from the time Moses brought the tablets down from Mt. Sinai to the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Over that span of time, Israel was caught in a vicious cycle: they’d hear from God, they’d turn away from God, they’d find themselves in a pickle, they’d turn to God, they’d hear from God. Repeat.
In addition to the constant repent/rebellion loop they were caught in, something else happened with the priests. They got so wrapped up in the rules themselves that they came up with hundreds more rules to help them avoid breaking the main ten. They became so consumed with piety that their hearts became hardened to what mattered most: loving people.
So, when Jesus came along, it was a game-changer. Not only for eternity, but in how we should live BEFORE we enter eternity in heaven. Jesus had already modeled how we should all live our lives. But, just in case the rules still were a bit foggy, he clarified things for us. In fact, one man was bold enough to ask Jesus what the most important commandment is. Jesus responded by saying this:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
But, Jesus went a step further. In his final moments with his disciples, he felt compelled to lay it out as plainly as it could be.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
He was setting the standard. “Do as I have done. Love others as I have loved you.”
None of these recent events in our country are taking God by surprise. He is still in control. He is sovereign. And, He still points to His only son as the Way. And, when His son speaks today, through the Word and through the Holy Spirit, he tells us the same thing he told his closest friends: “Love. They’ll know you belong to Me if you love.”
C.A. Phillips is a lifelong sports enthusiast and youth baseball coach, and currently serves as the Communications Pastor and Director of Men’s Groups at NorthStar Church in Kennesaw, Ga. He lives in Kennesaw with his wife, Amy, and his two sons, Chaz and Chandler.
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