Every belief system has its do’s and don’t’s.
Every club has its rules, every job has its requirements and some neighborhoods have covenants.
Even the Star Trek TV series has its ‘prime directive’.
What is one rule, one guideline, one set of principles that should, or currently does define us?
Some people tell me that it should be something universal, something true across all cultures and historical eras.
In other words, it should be something everyone already knows and follows.
That sound reasonable – but it’s not a commandment.
A commandment is something we are ‘commanded’ to do.
What would be the point of a commandment that everyone already followed?
A real commandment is one that defines and frames us, one that makes high – and constant – moral demands on us; one that does not leave us alone.
My first commandment, one that I strive, and often fail, to live up to, is to see and acknowledge the humanity of each person I meet.
To put it mildly, this is not always easy, or even possible.
But it is always worth doing.
I have learned much from those others would prefer to walk by.
They see and understand things I could never know.
They know, fear and love things I might never encounter.
My first commandment reminds me that they, perhaps even more than I, am in the hands of an irresistible, indefinable presence, one that calls me to a fullness and human richness far beyond my own definitions.
It’s not so much that I become a better, wiser and more compassionate person when I do this, it is far more of an issue of what kind of bitter, resentful and unforgiving person I become when I don’t.
Easily the most widely known verse among Christians is John 3:16; “For God so loved the world…” The world did not, and does not, deserve or earn God’s love. And perhaps no one ‘earns’ our love.
That’s why we need a ‘new’ commandment – one that stretches us, one that reminds us that we love, not because someone deserves it, but because that is who God is, and it is who we are called, in fact, ‘commanded’ to be.
To “Love one another as I have loved you” is an impossible command; it asks far more than most of us are willing to give.
One definition of ‘new’ is ‘never used’; could any of us even begin to imagine how different our neighborhoods, our families, our nations would be if even a tiny fraction of us loved each other as God loved us.
Sometimes I think of this ‘new commandment’ as a gift, wrapped and waiting to be opened.
The world does not ‘deserve’ our love, but it certainly needs it. It’s time to open the box.