The first two commandments - and war
Updated: Mar 24
Description: The first two commandments are perfectly clear. Yet the world can feel like a battleground. We’ve had Covid and now there’s war in Ukraine.
What’s amazing is the way two entirely different battles have brought the people of the world together. Not everyone, of course, but enough to restore our faith in kindness, generosity and love.
Jesus said, ‘The most important one (of the commandments is): “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these’ (Mark 12.29-31).
Millions help millions
During the Covid-19 pandemic (which sadly still persists) there have been millions of examples of ordinary people (as well as churches and voluntary organisations) showing love for their neighbours. Whether they intended to or not, they have shown the face of God to their neighbours – since, as we know, God works through whoever he chooses.
Neighbours have been supported with meals/food, shopping and transport, listening ears… and so much more. The ‘normal’ in workplaces has been transformed and, quite possibly, working practices changed forever. Of all these things, there was (and is) the standout and selfless service of countless health and care workers who put their own well-being on the line in the service of others – other complete strangers.
Why did anyone bother!
Why did anyone bother! Simple. God moved them – moved us – to bother. He challenged us to respond to overwhelming need. We couldn’t ignore it. He put the impact of something we couldn’t even see without a microscope right between our eyes, and he used this tiny thing to change the world and how we were engaging with our neighbours.
Did we feel helpless? Did we feel vulnerable? Did we see tragedy unfolding before our eyes? Yes, all these things and more. Did we give up? No, not for a second. But did we learn anything? One thing perhaps: that we’re not as ‘in charge’ as we thought we were. A minuscule virus cut us right down to size. If we accept it, it’s a lesson. We cannot depend on ourselves. We must turn to the one we can depend on; the one who is in charge, and always has been.
War in Ukraine
And now we have war in Ukraine. This too has brought the people of the world together. Not everyone, of course, but enough to restore our faith in kindness, generosity and love. People worldwide are giving wholehearted support to their neighbours – practical support on the ground and spiritual support through a crescendo of earnest prayer. They are loving their neighbours in defiance of injustice, and they are seeking to ease desperate needs.
We hear about so many things that worry us, yet Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’(Matthew 11.28).
Today – in the face of raw and selfish aggression – this verse from Matthew might seem to have a hollow ring. But no! We must never forget that our God is almighty. Nothing is impossible for him – nothing. The only limits are in our minds – in our faith in him, in who he is and what he can do. Therefore, we should pray that our minds never limit the scope of what God can actually do. Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords and his kingdom is both unshakable and eternal. Nothing and no one can withstand the power of God.
God is taking too long
We might very well think that God is taking too long, but delay does not invalidate his promises. He promised Abraham descendants more numerous than the stars, but the great forefather of Israel had to wait 25 years for his first heir, Isaac. It was the same with Joseph: God promised that he would rise above his older brothers and become a great leader, yet he had first to endure 13 years of slavery. All God’s promises are fulfilled – every one – even when circumstances make them appear utterly impossible. He will never fail us, and he will act against injustice. However, it may be good for our faith to bring his promises to mind and then call upon (even cry out to) God to fulfil them.
The crises of recent times have made us more loving neighbours. We must maintain this and get even better at it. In doing so, we honour the first and greatest commandment: to love God. This means trusting in his wisdom and in his heart for justice. He doesn’t need any weapons of war. He hardly needs to breathe a word, but we need to keep praying in faith and doing all we can to show our love for him and our neighbours, as he commanded. We are all in his hands.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.