commandment

The Problem Is We Practice "No Other Gods Before Me"

Of the “Ten Commandments” perhaps you can name a few: Don’t steal, Don’t murder, honor you mother and father, keep sabbath. Many of these are straight forward, but Peter Rollins mentions an interesting point from philosopher Slavoj Zizek. The point that I gathered is Zizek argues that commandment “You shall have no other Gods before me” might me that we should not have gods “in front” the God of the Bible. As in physically before, in front of. The idea being that we all have little gods and perhaps the commandment is saying, keep your other little gods, just don’t worship them in before (in front of or prior to worshiping) God.

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This may sound odd but the Bible does not begin at monotheism. Monotheism says that there is ONLY one God. However, when you read the Bible you will see that there are in fact many gods. For instance, Psalm 82 assume there are many gods: God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment (82:1). In a monotheistic worldview there is no need to mention other gods.

However the Bible does not stay in the polytheistic world very long before it makes a theological step toward monotheism. Before arriving at monotheism, there is a long stop at something called henotheism. Henotheism might admit there are other gods, but that our God is the best. Psalm 95 says, For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

This is where Zizek’s observation comes into play. The Ten Commandments is in the era of henotheism and thus having no other gods before the God of the Bible makes sense in a henotheistic world.

But today we are supposed to be monotheistic. That is we are supposed to understand that there is only one God. No others. This God is the Alpha and the Omega - the greatest and the weakest. God is all there is.

However, a case might be made that we are stuck in the henotheism. We live our lives taking the commandment “no other gods before me” very literally. That is, we worship our little gods of power, money, ego, prestige, nature, resentment, and envy but we don’t do it “before” we worship God of Jesus Christ.

The problem is not that we worship God, it is that we practice having no other gods before God.

How is "Love one another" a New Commandment?

In John 13:34-35 Jesus says “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

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Upon reflection I have to ask, “How is this a NEW commandment? Didn’t Jesus talk about and share love all the time? Then what makes this so NEW?”

Yes, Jesus taught about and lived out love in so many different ways so the way this commandment is NEW is the direction of the love.

Notice that Jesus says we are to love one another and that through loving one another we are disciples of Jesus. The direction of the love is toward the other person. More specifically, the direction of the love is NOT toward Jesus.

Perhaps what makes this a NEW commandment is that Jesus is removing himself from the equation of the direction of love and commanding disciples to love the other person. What is new is that Jesus is removing the requirement of direct affection and love of him (the leader) as proof that the disciple follows the leader.

It is much more common for the leader to say, “direct your love toward me and in this way people will know you are my disciples.” Rather Jesus says the opposite.

The more I come to discover about Jesus the more I am amazed at the constant kenosis (self-emptying) of God in Christ. Jesus came down, was obedient to even the point of death, and then when giving his farewell address to his disciples he says - put one another as the direction of your love.

What does it mean for us in the Church to say, “we love you Jesus” and for Jesus to say, “please direct your love to one another”?

Has the Golden Rule Lead to more Violence?

The following was originally posted by mistake on June 17th, 2016. It was scheduled for the incorrect date and this is why it is now being re-posted to the correct post date. Thank you for reading.


"Love your neighbor as yourself" - AKA the Golden Rule. This commandment is expressed a number of different ways, and in my tradition we first see this commandment in Leviticus 19:18. 

This expression of the Golden Rule makes me wonder if our acceptance of violence on others is a result of the violence we accept on our own selves. 

Many of my people believe that humans are sin sick souls that can do no good and are all hell bound. As a result we do all sorts of spiritual violence to ourselves in order to try to purify our souls. 

Culture shames people for their body and we do all sorts of physical violence to our bodies in order to meet these unreal standards.

Pressures from all places show us how we are all not as smart or as wise as we need to be. We do all sorts of mental violence to our minds in order to try to put on the front that we are not idiots and are worthy.

When there is tragedy we are given a time period to grieve and then move on, but if we are not able to move on in that window then we begin to think there is something wrong with us. We commit all sorts of emotional violence to ourselves in order to try to "move on" and "be better" since it seems "everyone else has."

We beat ourselves up because we are often our own harshest critic. However, doing so much violence to our own selves results in accepting it and then assuming that a certain level of violence on others is also acceptable since we tolerate a certain level of self inflicted violence. 

The point being that as long as we are continuing to tolerate self violence then we will continue to tolerate violence on others. 

Among the last things that Jesus said to his disciples in the gospel of John (13:34) we read: "I (Jesus) give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another." 

Jesus loves without violence of any kind and this slight modification of the Golden Rule for me is more significant than just semantics. This modification of the Golden Rule moves the center of the love from the individual to Jesus the Christ. Rather than Love your neighbor as yourself, Jesus frames this rule as Love one another as I have loved you.

I wonder what it would look like if we stopped loving others as we love ourselves and love one another as Jesus the Christ loves.