In the Old Testament (Exodus Ch 24) Moses went to Yahweh and was given all the rules and laws by which the people should live. Moses wrote these down in a book and had an altar built after which he sent out men to sacrifice young bulls as peace offerings.
He directed that they bring him the blood of the animals and he poured half of it on the altar and sprinkled the rest over the people while reading them what Yahweh had said from the book of the Covenant.
The people said, “We will observe all the commands which Yahweh has decreed”.
This Covenant was to prepare humankind for the new and final Covenant which Jesus gave us when he transformed bread and wine at the Last Supper. This Covenant was sealed not with the blood of animals but with the blood of Jesus himself.
This then is God’s commitment to us through his Son. Because of this commitment God is as much obliged as we are to fulfill the conditions of the Covenant we have together.
In Psalm 89:34 we read how our God says, “I will not break my Covenant, I will not revoke my given word”.
In John 16:23 Jesus said, “Anything you ask for from the Father he will grant in my name”. Throughout the New Testament we can read of so many more promises Jesus made us.
This then seals our God’s responsibility as a member of the Covenant we have together. But what are our responsibilities?
When one of the Scribes asked Jesus what was the greatest Commandment, he replied, “…you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength and you must love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:29-31).
At first glance it seems ours is the easiest commitment within the Covenant. But is it? If we wish to invoke the Covenant, we must first believe that “God so loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but have eternal life”. (John 3:16)
Let’s say then that as Christians we firmly believe that Jesus suffered and died that we might have eternal life. Let’s say we feel we do the best we can to fulfill the loving of our God in the way Jesus wants of us. Then all we have to do is ‘Love our neighbour’.
Jesus even defined the word ‘neighbour’ for us in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29). So, it seems our ‘neighbour’ can be anyone we see or meet. How we relate to this person determines how we fulfill the second part of our Covenant commitment.
Loving our neighbour doesn’t mean we have to like our neighbour, but perhaps we need to question how we go about ‘loving’ our neighbour!
People are who they are, yet so often we find it easy to criticise a person behind their back because they are different from what we would like them to be. Often, we tend to shy away from those with which we don’t wish to be involved, just like the priest and the Levite did in the Good Samaritan story.
We need to accept and love people for who they are. If they need to change, then God will help them make that change. We cannot change them, but we can only show by our example which might influence them to seek change in their lives.
Criticising our neighbour is not loving them, so let us try and look for the good in people rather than how they differ from our own expectations of them. There is no doubt that nearly everyone you see has some problem they are facing within their lives. A loving smile is sometimes all they might need to make their day. It’s easy to criticise the actions of others but maybe we should consider how we might react should we be in their shoes.
If we are planning on invoking the Covenant we have with our God then before we can expect to have our God respond favourably to our requests, maybe we need to first ensure we are addressing all of our own responsibilities within our joint Covenant.
I’m Peter Mack and that’s how I feel.