In Task & Deed
June 03, 2012
Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children’s children, may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. When the Lord your God has brought you into the land that he swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—a land with fine, large cities that you did not build, houses filled with all sorts of goods that you did not fill, hewn cisterns that you did not hew, vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant—and when you have eaten your fill, take care that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. The Lord your God you shall fear; him you shall serve, and by his name alone you shall swear. Do not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who are all around you, because the Lord your God, who is present with you, is a jealous God. The anger of the Lord your God would be kindled against you and he would destroy you from the face of the earth. Do not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.
You must diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his decrees, and his statutes that he has commanded you. Do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may go in and occupy the good land that the Lord swore to your ancestors to give you, thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the Lord has promised.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
”I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
In the opening chapter of the Bible we find the words, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” The Bible story begins with man created, tells of his first state when he lived close to the Lord, how he turned to self and lost his paradise, and of the continued efforts of the Lord to bring man back into close relationship with Himself, The means to this are the truths of the Word.
All the Lord’s commandments are divine truths. They have their origin in the divine nature and their sanction in the immutable order of the divine wisdom. Man becomes the image of God and is conjoined to Him in the degree in which he learns and lives the Lord’s commandments.
Many of the Lord’s commandments and precepts are prohibitions. This is because of our ignorance. We need to be told not to do those things which will injure us. But the form in which a principle is stated does not change its character. All the laws and statutes of the Word are given in the form best adapted to secure their recognition and obedience. They are laws inherent in the divine nature, and so are the laws for our growth and development. They are the laws of the divine life and the laws of true human life.
When the Lord commands us to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, He is only stating in the form of a commandment a primary and fundamental law of our being. He Himself calls it the “first and great commandment of the law”; that is, the first in importance and great in the goodness which comes through it. The good which comes by obedience to it is the highest end of life, the greatest attainment that anyone can procure.
It is a matter of common observation that all our happiness and all our misery flow from love: our happiness from the love of what is good and true, and our misery from the love of the evil and false. The higher the object of our love, the greater is our happiness. He who loves only physical ease and comfort has a kind of negative, animal-like happiness which consists merely in not being miserable. He who loves knowledge for the sake of knowing finds a stimulus to activity and a reward which mere physical life cannot give. He who sincerely loves his fellow men and seeks to help them and to do them good lives in a state of happiness far above that of those interested only in intellectual pursuits. The love of family and children is a more interior love and brings greater joys than can come from the delights of mere friendship. It is a universal truth that the higher our love is, the happier we are.
The command to love the Lord is not an arbitrary law. The divine love is not the love of ruling or of receiving homage. This law is one given us by a Lord who knows what is best for us, and is the law which, if obeyed, will bring the greatest blessings.
The questions then arise, “How can we love the Lord?” and “How can we express our love for Him?” The Lord has given us a plain and direct answer in the words of our text: “He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”
This is, however, a general answer, and to bring it to practical application involves knowledge of the basic truths concerning the Lord. We cannot love a being of whom we can form no idea. To know nothing about God is to be godless. Nor can we love a mere creative force. We cannot love an abstraction. It is therefore impossible to love the Lord without forming some distinct idea of His character and believing in Him as a real and personal being—and throughout the Scriptures He is described as a personal being. Nor can we love a divine being who is vengeful and arbitrary. We might fear such a God, but we could not love Him. The teachings of the New Church are clear and definite here. The Lord is the one divine and perfect Man, infinite in love, wisdom, and power; and we are created in His image and likeness.
Love and wisdom are human qualities, and we can form an idea of them from their existence in us. Whatever genuine love and wisdom we may have are from the Lord; though the divine love and wisdom are infinitely above our love and wisdom in both degree and in quality, they are yet similar.
We are not to love the Lord as a person apart from His character, as some parents love their children. If we will analyze our love for our fellow men, we shall see that we do not love them merely as persons but as the embodiment of certain qualities that are congenial to us. We love others according to the degree in which they possess qualities of mind and heart which are homogeneous to our own natures. Two persons may be very similar in appearance, but we may like one and not the other. Also, it is not uncommon for us to meet people whom we do not like at first but come to love when we learn their true character. If it were the person we loved and not the qualities in the person, one might love a statue.
It is the divine qualities or attributes in the Lord that we are to love. If we love those qualities wherever they are found, we love Him who is their embodiment and source. If we love innocence and purity of heart, if we love obedience to truth, if we love unselfish devotion to the welfare of others, if we love goodness and truth in others, provided also that we seek to develop these qualities in ourselves, we love the Lord. For these are divine qualities, and to love the quality and character of anyone is to love him who possesses it. Those who love to do the commandments of the Lord love the Lord.
We do not have to know people personally to love them. There are those we know through their writings and the record of their deeds. There are many long gone before us to whom we owe much who are a constant inspiration to us, and for whom we feel a strong degree of affection. In the same way we can love the Lord. Though we cannot see Him with our physical eyes, we may know that He is perpetually present with us, giving us life, guiding, and protecting us every moment.
We should be careful to distinguish between love and mere feelings or emotions. There are those who make the loudest professions of affection for others, yet who will do nothing for those whom they pretend to love. Love which does not express itself in actions is not love. One may say “Lord, Lord,” but not do the things which the Lord commands. Some think that the Lord does not need our help. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” We cannot give anything to the Lord which He does not already possess. Yet He needs us, for He created us to be the means of receiving love and wisdom from Him and using these gifts in the service of others. Each one of us has relations to others and opportunities of doing them good that no one else has the power to do. If we do our tasks faithfully, we are helping the Lord. We do not show our love just by telling a person that we love him. In fact, the more we love others, the less we are inclined to talk about it. Love is not a form of words. It expresses itself in acts.
We can show our love to the Lord in every field of human activity. We can show it in seeking the material welfare of mankind, in doing our tasks well in the service of the community in which we live, in seeking the political welfare and freedom of the state and of the nation, and especially in seeking to know the divine purposes for us and to carry them out. If we do these things, we love the Lord, praise Him in every daily task, and worship Him in every deed. To love the Lord with all the heart, mind, soul, and strength is to seek to learn of Him, to know His will, and to do His commandments in all the uses of our daily lives. Amen.
Rev. Louis Dole