Love the Lord Your God with All Your Design
January 28th, 2009 in Web Design Worldview
by: Matthew Griffin
Most westerners (even non-Christians) are familiar with the famous Bible passage in which Jesus explains that the greatest commandment is to "love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second", he goes on to explain, "is like it: love your neighbor as yourself." Well, we're all at least familiar with the second half. It is after all the "golden rule". But without the first part, the second part is a flimsy piece of secular moralism. I suppose if your purpose in studying the Bible is to find support for a system you already have in place, ripping out the first half of Jesus' speech is perfectly satisfactory. An honest search for truth, however, could never settle for the second greatest commandment. We need the first and the second.
Is Loving the Lord All that Matters?
Okay, enough ranting. We're all good evangelical designers here and we know that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all we've got. We've known it since we were little tykes. So let's take this a step further. Over the Christmas holiday my father and I were sitting around the dining room table at my home in Midland. We chatted and watched the grandkids play; at one point in a conversation about Morgan and Emma's (my kids) future, my father made this statement: "As long as they love the Lord nothing else matters." I had to agree. He's always had a way of hitting on foundational principles and holding on tight. It's a quality that's severely lacking in our pragmatic culture. But later on, I was thinking back on the conversation and I had to ask myself what exactly it looks like to love the Lord. The words are so familiar but the substance is what I needed to examine.
Loving the Lord the Gnostic Way
We can all agree that to love the Lord is the greatest commandment. But after some thought, I came to the conclusion that the modern concept of "loving the Lord" looks a lot more like gnosticism than classic Christianity. The gnostics were an ancient cult that the church fought fiercely in the first few centuries AD. There were many brands of gnosticism but the common thread that bound them together was their belief in a "higher" knowledge or experience. To them this higher knowledge—this true spirituality—was beyond human comprehension. It could not be explained or transferred from one person to another. It had to be abstractly experienced outside the realm of human senses. The gnostics, of course, were defeated and slipped quietly into history. But in modern times we are seeing many such ancient heretical views resurrected. In a sense, it's as if we're re-experiencing the attacks fended off by the early church. As the painstakingly rendered creeds and confessions designed by church fathers to guard against these heresies are lost or demeaned, I predict we will see more and more of this. But that's another topic so for the time being I'll continue with modern gnosticism.
We see modern gnosticism infecting the greatest commandment (to love the Lord with all) when the commandment is taught without elaboration. We see it when the greatest commandment is explained in terms of pure emotional ecstasy. And we see it when the greatest commandment is equated with following a voice inside telling us to perform "random acts of kindness and senseless beauty". Although gnosis means "knowledge", ironically gnosticism invariably ends in a rejection of true knowledge—the knowledge of God's word. It exchanges it for something that's not knowledge at all. It exchanges it for a cheap high.
Loving the Lord His Way
The truth that is offered in Christianity is both objective and subjective, but the objective always leads to the subjective or vice versa. Gnosticism looks down its nose at this material world and tangible truth; that's why it is not a Christian sentiment. Christ said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." Of course, the moral law of the old testament is in view here. But as Christians, redeemed from the law of sin and death, we must look back even further to understand Christ's words—back to the first command given to mankind by God. "Be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth." This is a positive command. It stands in contrast to the law which is full of negative commands. It is our truly our raison d' entre. It is God's explanation of how to actively love him. Yes, yes, keep yourself from evil. That's a given. But as you are brought out of darkness, staying true to a list of prohibitions is not enough and it isn't what we were meant for. We must turn to light and move forward. Which is why I say, "Love the Lord your God with all your design." To refuse is not only disobedience, it is to live a life devoid of meaning.
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