By Femi Aribisala
Love is always lawful. Love is always the right thing to do.
A man was employed to produce pens. His employer set him a target: he had to produce ten pens a day. He also had three regulations: He must be punctual to work. His lunch-breaks must not exceed one hour. He was to entertain no visitors while on the job.
The man kept all three regulations but failed to produce ten pens a day. At the end of the month, he was fired from the job. He discovered to his cost that although he observed the regulations concerning punctuality and diligence, his employer was primarily interested in him producing ten pens a day.
Love covers all
Christians need to understand the central tenets of the faith Jesus handed down. God is not looking for Christians. As a matter of fact, Jesus did not create any new faith he surnamed Christianity. God is not looking for people who diligently obey church rules and regulations. The churches dotting the Christian landscape are not the church of Jesus Christ.
Jesus says God is looking for true worshippers: “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24).
What precisely does God require of his children? Jesus summarised all 613 laws of Moses into two: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37/39).
Paul reiterates this: “The purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.” (1 Timothy 1:5-7).
Therefore, let us forget about evangelism. Just let us love God. I have never met anybody who loved God that did not therefore become an evangelist. But I have met many evangelists who don’t love God. Let us forget about going to church. Let us just love God. I have never met anybody who loved God but hates fellowshipping with other believers. But I have met many people who go to church but don’t love God.
Let us forget about praying several times a day; fasting twice a week; reading the bible every day and paying tithes. Let us just love God and love our neighbour, for love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:10).
It is so much easier and convenient to do something for God than to love and obey him. There are many people allegedly working for God but not with him. There are many people ostensibly working for God who don’t believe in him. Many helped Noah to build the ark without believing in the ark. Therefore, at the appropriate time, they failed to seek salvation in the ark.
When Judas realised that the crucifixion of Jesus spelt his condemnation, he returned the thirty pieces of silver he received as wages for his betrayal to the religious establishment. But the chief priests and elders refused to accept the money, so Judas threw it on the floor and left.
The priests had qualms about putting it in the collection-box because it was blood money. Being sticklers for the letter of the law, they failed to appreciate that killing an innocent man for malicious reasons violated the spirit of the law.
Religious people are often ungodly. They may have a zeal for God, but not according to the knowledge of his ways. (Romans 10:2). They chase the shadow but ignore the substance. They emphasise what caters for the body, while overlooking what sustains the soul. They recite the scriptures, but without true understanding. They eat the shell of the groundnut, but leave out the nut.
How could a man like Jesus who went about doing good have been despised and rejected by the very people he ministered to? (Isaiah 53:3). How come not even a single one of the people Jesus healed came to his defence in his hour of trial? How come the only voices heard were those shouting “crucify him?” How come the beneficiaries of his ministry preferred a common criminal like Barabbas to a godly man like Jesus Christ?
Why was the religious establishment offended that Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath? Why did they find it difficult to rejoice when a woman who had been sick for 18 years finally received healing? Why could they not rejoice that a man who had been sick for 38 years was finally healed? Why did they excommunicate a man who was born blind but had miraculously received his sight after listening to his testimony? (John 9:34).
The Jews claimed these acts of mercy were done unlawfully. But love is always lawful. Love is always the right thing to do. Moreover, love is not a debt owed us by others. Love is the only debt we owe. It is a debt we must be prepared to pay and repay and repay because it is owed to our redeemer: the Lord God Almighty.
Rock of offense
The truth is that the righteousness of Christ exposed the sinfulness of the Jewish religious hierarchy. God’s actions and inactions have this nagging tendency to expose the true nature of our hearts. The question then is what line of action are we going to take? Are we going to repent or are we going to hold the truth of God in unrighteousness?
Rather than repent, the Jewish clergy ultimately resolved to kill Jesus. We must never lose sight of the fact the people who plotted to have Jesus killed were the Christians of those days. In effect, the people of Jerusalem specialized in killing the prophets. The pastors of the churches resolved to kill an innocent man rather than forsake the sins for which he rebuked them. Rather than repent, Herodias resolved that John the Baptist must be silenced, even if it meant killing him. Clearly, these people did not have the love of God in them.
The Jews complained that the man who had been sick for 38 years was carrying his bed contrary to the law. (John 5:10). In the same way, we Christians complain when a woman who has been a prostitute for ten years wears mini-skirts to church. We complain that some Christian women wear trousers and earrings.
We find fault because the love of God is not in us. We find fault because we are hard-hearted and would rather some people were not saved or healed or delivered. Knowingly or unknowingly, we believe that some people do not deserve the mercy of God. We don’t want to get to heaven and find Saddam Hussein there.
“Then (Jesus) said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. And he looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts.” (Mark 3:4-6).