" While you have the light, believe in the light... "

- John 12:36a

The Number One Fundamental

Many Christians are proud to be called Fundamentalist. There are lots of fundamentals that get talked about, but this story makes them very clear for us:

Now one of the experts in the law came and heard them debating. When he saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is: ʻListen, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.ʼ The second is: ʻLove your neighbor as yourself.ʼ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:28-31

What is one fundamental common to both those commandments? Love.

Loving God isn't easy, but seems pretty simple. Loving your neighbor is more complicated. The Gospel of Luke repeats the importance of the great commandments, but here Jesus is being challenged by a proud lawyer trying to justify himself. Jesus then tells the familiar story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). There are lots of people robbed and beaten up by life, but instead of being willing to step into their world, human nature tells us to keep away from those "losers" and keep our eyes on the "winners," (James 2:1-8).

There was nothing the Good Samaritan hoped to get out of helping the man who was robbed. It makes no sense to love our neighbor with selfishness (Philippians 2:3-4). Instead of looking for ways to get, God wants us to look for ways to be charitable:

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil...

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

When people talk about love, they're almost always thinking about “getting my needs met.” If someone “loves” chocolate, they mean they have a lust for it, and want to consume it (James 4:3). “Making Love” often means sex outside of marriage. Jesus calls that lust (Matthew 5:28).

Jesus’ love was sacrificial. He came as a servant. He taught us to love people that aren't like us and have nothing to give us. But fundamentalist sermons today often tell us to love ourselves: to covet pride, wealth, and power, while despising and fearing those that aren't like us. Often, it is the same message we hear from openly sinful media personalities and politicians. They were exposed as liars decades ago but keep promising to feed our flesh (Romans 13:8-14), so they get one "mulligan" after another. Instead of encouraging humility and generosity, they give us reasons to feel selfish, self-righteous and angry about it. These sins need to be recognized, confessed, and repented of (Exodus 20:17, James 4:6, 1 Timothy 6:9-10, Matthew 4:17), not appeased, nurtured and encouraged.

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law. For this, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law. Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we first believed.

Romans 13:8-11

Loving ourselves is a normal part of our biology. Jesus wants us to overome our biology (John 6:63). The love of a Gramma is precious, and she might seem like an angel to you, but there is a biological reason for her to love. It may be a surprise that Grammas often love family more than strangers and struggle to show Good Samaritan love at times. Our biology says Blood is Thicker Than Water, but Jesus said:

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:26

Before you give up on Jesus, understand what He is saying first. John the Apostle explains it this way:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life — is not from the Father but is from the world.

1 John 2:15-16

Worldly love expects giving with the hope of getting from the world. Christian love expects giving with the hope of getting from Christ. If we are His friends, we will follow His commandment to love. If nothing else, we will express our gratitude for life on earth and in heaven by showing our love. Even better, we will see the wisdom of what He is doing on earth, and we will join with Him in the work.

What is conservatism for if not conserving the Bible? Many seem to have their limit to how far they stick to Jesus, and most public figures (who get rich labeling themselves Christian) sound more like greedy Romans and hypocritical Pharisees. Don't forget Jesus wrote the Law and spoke to the Prophets (John 1:1), and none of that has passed away (Matthew 5:18), so it would be unwise to label Him as as a liberal. He wants us to follow Him by making this world a better place, not tearing everything and everyone down to get more for ourselves. That should be a fundamental we can all agree on.