Responding to Guidelines by Loving God and Loving our Neighbors

Over the past month there have been many changes to our lives, each driven by a new set of guidelines from our local community leaders. These guidelines communicate how our leaders would like us to do our part in keeping our community healthy and safe. 

We then had to make decisions about how we would respond. Would we choose to limit the number of people we meet with face to face; would we choose to stay home or go see friends? As the church, we had a significant decision to make initially, should we cancel worship services due to the gathering size? I think we all know that answer, but I want us to consider how the decision was made.  The first command that we followed was not the governor’s order, but instead it was God’s word, which calls us to follow the authorities placed over us. And so, we chose to follow the governor’s order because of God’s word. 

In the same way, we need to consider all of God’s word and its implications for how we choose to live today. 

After God had saved the nation of Israel and led them out of Egypt, only then did He give them His requirements. These commandments were how He desired the people to respond to His provision and protection. Moses received these commandments from God written on stone tablets – commonly known as the Ten Commandments. When Moses returned with the tablets, he spoke to the people reminding them of what God had done for them, so that they might choose to honor His commands.  

I encourage you to pause and read Deuteronomy 10:12-22. 

God has shown us, most clearly in the cross, eternal provision and protection. Therefore, as we consider how we will respond to the rules and guidelines of our earthly authorities, we need to first consider how we will respond to God’s word. 

The First and Greatest Commandment 

When Jesus was tested by the religious leaders in Israel about the greatest commandment, He referred to Moses by calling us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind. Moses began by saying, “Now Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all of His ways and love Him.” 

Many of us would say that we love God, but the real question is not if we say we love Him.  Rather, do we love Him most? Do we love Him more than anything else? In order to examine ourselves, we need to consider even the smaller decisions we make in a day.  Here is a simple question to ask yourself: “Am I doing _______ because it is good for me, and God would be OK with it too?”  When we love God most, our decisions are based on Him first and the implications for us are secondary at most.  

To help in bringing this to the front of our minds, I recommend memorizing two verses of Scripture that help me to remember my purpose in life. 

1 Cor 10:31 – Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 

2 Cor 5:9 – Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 

With these truths in mind, I can seek to love God most in even the smallest decisions of my day. 

Motivation to Love God Most 

It is easy for me to say that I love God most, but my self-centered heart continues to want to put myself first.  Why is that?  I put myself first because I have something very wrong in my understanding of God and my understanding of who I am.  This topic alone could extend into a book, so I will focus on what I can know from today’s passage. Moses shows us two truths that can change my self-centered heart.  

First, Moses said, “Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it” (Deut 10:14).  God created everything. He owns everything and I just happen to be a part of everything.  When I inflate my own importance and love myself before God, I am placing myself above the One who created me.  Can we all just agree that that does not make sense?  

A second truth demonstrates that God loved me first. “Yet on your fathers did the Lord set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day” (Deut 10:15). God demonstrated His love for His people by saving them long before He set the Ten Commandments before them. God’s word shows us repeatedly that God chose us; He didn’t wait to see if we would love Him. 

Just as God brought Israel out of Egypt first, God also demonstrated that He loves you and me more than anything else.  By giving His Son, willingly going to the cross to pay for the debt of our sin, God chose to love you and me even when we still loved ourselves more. 

This is just the beginning. But when I choose how I will respond to God’s word, I can know that I am responding to the One who created all things, who created me and loves me. 

How then shall I Respond 

Jesus answered this question as well in His response to the religious leaders.  He said, “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matt 22:39).  Moses had also called the Israelites to love their neighbors as he showed them how God loved those around them saying, “He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing” (Deut 10:18). He then goes on to call us to do the same because we were once in the same position and need as those around us. 

Today, as we see the needs of our neighbors and the needs of our community, how will we respond?  Will our first thought be the impact on us and our families?  If we desire to please God and choose for His glory, our first thoughts are to be for God Himself and then for our neighbors.  This is not a call to run recklessly into a dangerous situation, but to consider what we have and how we might love others.  

There are many ways that we can all love our neighbors. A few examples might include: 

  • Consider whether to buy the “high demand” item on the store shelf just because it is there when you already have some at home. 
  • Choose to wear the cloth mask to protect others even though you find it uncomfortable and may not consider the risk high. 
  • Mow the lawn of a healthcare worker who does not have the time to do it.
  • Choose how to use your stimulus relief check.  Was your financial situation impacted the same way as your neighbor? Could you help give others relief? 
  • Pray for your neighbors that they might also choose to love God first and most. 
  • Share with a neighbor how God’s love has changed you. 

As we respond to the situation around us today and choose how we will respond to the rules and guidelines of our community leaders to keep us safe, let’s not look only at the new restrictions.  Look at how God would call us to respond first by loving Him and then by loving our neighbors as an outward action to show that you have chosen Him, knowing He chose you first. 

Rod Hutton