“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." — Romans 13:8-10 I'm grateful we still have a hometown newspaper. I’m also grateful for you who read my column and the other content in the Tribune each week. I don't want to admit to you what I sometimes do on days when I don't have time (or inclination) to get much in-depth exposure to the news. I admit I sometimes read headlines instead of articles, unless something is of particular interest to me.
I know that’s not setting a very good example to my readers. I realize a reader may be at the mercy of a headline writer's bias when that's how we get our information. A quick blurb in the headline may not be accurate. But with the suspicion of media bias we have today, there might be very little difference in reading the whole story or just the headline in some news sources.
We're used to the big print saying one thing and the fine print something else in advertising, but we hate to see it in the news.
When Jesus and the expert in the law discussed the greatest command, our Savior told the lawyer that loving God with all your heart, soul and mind was the greatest command. The lawyer knew that. Devout Jews said the shema from Deuteronomy 6:4 every day. Shema is the first word of the passage in Hebrew. It means "Hear." Then Jesus added the second command: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," quoting Leviticus 19:18. The expert agreed with Jesus, saying that obeying those commands was much greater than all the ritual burnt offerings and sacrifices at the core of the Levitical priesthood and Jewish worship. Jesus responded by telling the man, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." You can read about this in your own Bible in Mark 12:28-34.
My point today is we are guilty before God of breaking the Greatest Commands (the headlines).
My guilt is not based on some technicality in some obscure hard-to-understand passage. I have been guilty of disobeying the greatest ones, haven't you? Whenever we love self, pleasure, worldly things or the praise of others more than we love God, we disobey Commandment One.
Whenever we're impatient, unkind, jealous, arrogant, rude or any other opposite of how love behaves (1 Corinthians 13), we disobey Command 2. We're guilty, not only in the fine print; we disobey in the headlines.
Maybe you feel like I'm putting a "guilt trip" on you by bringing this up. But please let me explain. It's important to know we are guilty so the gospel will be personal, meaningful good news to you and me. As long as the blood of Christ and the cross are category words or preacher talk, we can't appreciate the offer of grace or our need of it. Maybe you grew up "in church" see yourself as "a good person," or do not have a spectacular conversion story about a dramatic rescue from a debauched life. It may be easier to see others' need for salvation than your own.
But the truth about each of us is that our sins separate us from God, and we could never do any works of righteousness to get back to him. By bearing your sin on the cross, Jesus took the punishment you were due for your sins.
Self-righteousness makes us minimize our need of grace and magnify the sins of others. There's ample evidence in our words, actions and thoughts that we're guilty of breaking the greatest commands. But when we take an honest look at our own disobedience, we can hear the good news and rejoice in our salvation.
Mike McElroy is the preaching minister of East Tallassee Church of Christ in Tallassee. He is the author of “The Abiding Companion — A Friendly Guide for Your Journey Through the New Testament,” and “Christmas Pilgrims — A Journey to See Jesus” available from the author and from Amazon.com. He writes a weekly faith column for The Tallassee Tribune.