The Greatest Commandment

“Are you keeping the law?” screams the fundamentalist. Guilt. Shame. Weariness.

“The greatest commandment is to love. I try my best to love,” I reply. Freedom. Joy. Strength.

“But if you truly love God then you’ll keep all his commandments and submit yourself to every ordinance of man!” cries the fundamentalist in triumph. Chains. Captivity. Disquiet.

“Ah, but the whole law is fulfilled in one word: โ€œYou shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Simplicity. Grace. Peace.

And so the fundamentalist turned away without another word. Angry. Confused. Unyielding.

89 thoughts on “The Greatest Commandment”

  1. I recall sitting in the car with a Hyles-Anderson grad and his new bride confidently told her that he had already performed all the points of loving her for that day. I was just a teenager, but even I thought he was an idiot. Apparently his bride did, too. But in the habit of submission, she said nothing. Bear in mind, to “try my best to love” is the sort of claim a legalist would also make. Like the proud HAC grad boasting to his wife, legalists will reduce Love down to a series of duties. But real Love is closely tied to faith (not that effort doesn’t play a role!) And it is closely tied to our sense of inadequacy to exercise it (humility). In the end, as John wrote, we come to love because “He first loved us.” So knowledge is in there, too. Faith, humility, intimate knowledge of Christ: all of these make for loving Christians. None of these qualities exist for long in legalism. But legalism has its counterfeits of modesty, virtue, scholarship, righteousness. It can also manufacture a counterfeit of Love.

    1. “ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” -Matt. 23:23-24

      That’s Bible…KJV Bible even

      1. But He did say “… and not to leave the other undone”.

        I agree that many fundamental churches have reduced spirituality to following their rules… but at the same time, His grace should teach us to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.

        Balance is the key.

        1. Let’s think through this one, GR.

          When Jesus said not to leave the other undone, what was he talking about and who was he talking to?

        2. He was talking about tithing to the Jews, for whom it was a commandment. The principal is that the commandments of God ARE important, but merely doing these should not take precedence over justice, judgment, and mercy, eh?

        3. No, faith hope and love form the key. The Bible says nothing about “balance” as a means to approach either salvation or sanctification.

  2. As a fundy I thought that the greatest commandment is “thou shalt have no other versions” followed by “women shall not wear britches”.

      1. ..and that goes for chewin’ smokin’ and all…I wonder if they ever figured out that taters, green peppers and tomatoes have nicotine if there would be a fundy intifada against pizza and potato chips and things?

        1. Surprised there isn’t one already. EveryFundy knows that only those foods found on their sainted mothers’ tables, you know, fried chicken, pork chops, meat loaf, mash potatoes, etc, are kosher, and no Real True Xtian would dream of eating something as decadent as pizza. ๐Ÿ‘ฟ

      2. my grandpa’s version (and he was not fundy) was “I don’t drink nor smoke nor chew nor associate with those who do.” (born in 1894) Of course, he said it in a bit of jest because he kept a bottle of whiskey in his utility room and had daily beers until he was about 90 ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. What I’ve learned since leaving church (but not leaving my faith behind) is that many seem to prefer to have rules set for them. It doesn’t require a lot of thought to just follow the rules…truly loving others can often be a messy, complicated business. I know that’s no big revelation to anyone here, but I see others I know who try to put on their best front (don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t cuss, don’t watch “those” shows or listen to “that music), and it just makes me wonder why they make themselves so miserable.

    1. I agree with your post that people want to be given lists and told what to think. I spent 20 years in a fundamentalist church and allowed myself to remain even when I knew things weren’t right for this very reason.
      It came down to me being willing to live with things I knew weren’t right (not thinking for myself, harsh judgement,legalism, etc) more so than I was willing to walk away, severing all my relationships at the time, and totally changing how I lived.
      It was so much easier to accept things as they were, than to go out on my own, actually make life decisions and then take responsibility for the outcome,and come up with my own boundaries about what was right and wrong. That takes hard work.

      This kind of mentality keeps lots of people who don’t like the church where they are in their seats.

      train111

    2. True liberty and actually loving your neighbor (i.e. wanting the best for them) truly is a scary concept for a lot of people. If you were raised IFB, it is a lot easier just to check the boxes, because it is tangible proof that you are serving the Lord.

    3. Loki would agree.

      ” Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It’s the unspoken truth of humanity, that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.”

      And he’s the villain, remember?

  4. It’s not self-serving or fun for a fundy to love their neighbor when they can keep a checklist of activities that makes them so much better than their neighbors! :o/

  5. Keeping the law. Yep, that’s a fundy’s greatest commandment. I left in the midst of a series on the 10 Commandments. True Story.

    I’ll send you the link to the series if you want.

    B.R.O.

    1. Interestingly, I left my penultimate fundy church (unfortunately, I got suckered into one more before I was completely done) over a sermon that had a very different focus. We were urged, cajoled, and pressured to bring lots of visitors for one of those “pack the pew” Sundays that fundies love so much. (I would note that the fundy view that church is primarily for the lost is a rather apt observation in their case, although not necessarily in the way they mean it. A church dedicated to denying the gospel of Christ is indeed full of lost souls.) Anyway, everyone got all their lost friends’ butts in the seats and then the pastor delivered the closest thing I ever heard to a Baptist homily on how “the Lord’s prayer is a good prayer for us all to pray.” I was utterly disgusted because I knew that his sermon was a complete lie – in no way did it match up with what I knew to be the pastor’s actual beliefs about how salvation and the ability to pray were only available to a select few who were “right with God” and followed the pastor’s quite lengthy list of rules.

      I wanted to sing in the choir at that church but was not invited to do so because I broke some of the rules on their page-and-a-half list of “Choir Rules” among which was the requirement that you be at the church a minimum of FIVE times a week. When I pointed out that this was impossible for me as a college student with a busy schedule and lack of transportation I was told that God would provide transportation for me to serve Him and it was strongly implied that I was out of God’s will to be at a college that didn’t give me 100% of my time free on Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday so I could serve the church.

      Anyway, the sermon was just so utterly hypocritical and dishonest vis-ร -vis the actual teachings of the IFB church, that I had enough and started attending an Assembly of God church with a friend of mine from college instead.

      Item 1: The reason why the pastor preached such a “soft” sermon was because the church was shedding members left and right as various people gave up on the false doctrines of fundamentalism and he was desperate to bring the numbers up. It didn’t work and last I heard the numbers had dwindled even more. It might have had something to do with the fact that they remodeled their building to be more “visitor friendly” and sited the nursery in the basement directly underneath the sanctuary so the sanctuary smelled like baby poop all the time.

      Item 2: When I went home that summer, my mother arranged a meeting between me and the IFB pastor that I grew up with. The goal was to have him berate me for attending a non-IFB church. He told me that “everything the Assembly of God believes is garbage.” Oh really? Like the entire Bible for instance? He then furnished me with a Sword of the Lord church directory and ordered me to pick from their list of approved churches. Yeah, that helpful document went in the trash as soon as I stepped out of his office. ๐Ÿ‘ฟ

      1. “Everything the Assembly of God believes is garbage.โ€ Statements like this are so very destructive to those of us brought up in the IFB. We were taught to never lie and to obey authority so we never imagine that our authority would lie! While I understand using hyperbole, this sort of statement is not hyperbole but a deliberate misrepresentation of the beliefs of Christians of another denomination. It is SO WRONG.

        I was told things like that too – about other denominations, about Christian contemporary music. When I realized the truth for myself, I was very angry at those who lied to me. I lost respect for them. There’s no excuse for lying. Be reasonable: sit down and show me where we differ from Assemblies of God. But don’t lie to me about their beliefs because 1) you’re scared I’ll leave or 2) you hate them that much.

      1. Sort of the same as the Fundy command to be โ€œloyalโ€

        This was drilled into us at Fundy Christian High and at Fundy Street Baptist. To the point of silliness, yet here I am 35+ years later still having flashbacks and questioning decisions I make because of a strange sense of “loyalty”. We heard that loyalty to the church and pastor were most important, but that all we did should reflect some weird misplaced loyalty.
        Work for Ford? Drive a Ford. No excuses. Work for Delta? never consider flying Eastern. God doesn’t want you to help the competition, he wants complete loyalty in every situation.
        It really messed with my mind when I went to work for a locally owned Ace hardware, and was told to refer customers to the local True Value for certain things. Situations like that and a non-believing co-worker who had some common sense helped start me down the road to questioning a lot of “Fundy Wisdom”.

        1. Eastern? Dude, get with the times. I hear PanAm is a better deal these days.

          Loyalty:
          It always cracks me up, the taxiway speech on the way to the gate: “Welcome to _____ city. We know you have a lot of airlines to choose from, and we’re so grateful you chose to fly with us.” so as to encourage my loyalty.

          My loyalty is with the cheapest ticket that matches with my schedule.

    1. One might add that many fundies follow the “skirt’em” rule with respect to following the rules themselves, but NEVER with respect to judging others for not following those same rules.

  6. Darrell, you said:

    “‘Ah, but the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Simplicity. Grace. Peace.”

    The only problem with that is that when Christ said that, he was alluding to the legalism of the Pharisees. The PROBLEM is that you CAN NOT love your neighbor as yourself and if you try you are NO BETTER than the fundy lover…

    No qualms, just pointing out. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Actually in that verse I’m quoting Paul who is quoting Christ and Paul who is talking about the works of the flesh through circumcision:

      Galatians 5:6 “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”

      With that context set he then goes on to say:

      Galatians 5:13-14 “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”

      I think the context fits well to what I wrote here. No need to make it overly complicated. And of course we can’t be perfect. We’re human beings and we screw up a lot. But the goal is never to make and keep more laws, the goal is to follow the one guiding principle of neighbor-love. That’s the point.

        1. Do they make the AMP software for Mac? Is there an app for that too? I’m afraid I need it! I read entire sentences sometimes without thinking “that should be “ye” not “you”.

        2. @Rob

          I am developing my software right now. It seems like a perfect niche after I saw the Christmas card the other day.

          “This time next year we’ll be millionaires”

    2. Of course we can’t actually keep the law. That is why we thank God for his grace in imputing Jesus’ perfect lawkeeping to us. However being dead to sin and being a new creature, I want to love as I should and thereby glorify God, realizing that it doesn’t affect my standing before him if I fall short. What “those” fundies do is turn it around and base their standing or church status on checking off the boxes of their own invented list of rules that they use to define loving behavior.

    3. What kind of God gives us commands which we cannot keep? Yes in our fallen state we find it hard to keep. But I always was taught that was the purpose of Christ coming and Pentecost. God’s sanctifying grace helps us to grow into the ability to love others as ourselves. It is the power of Christ in us.
      If we cannot keep the command, then this is a religion of despair.

      1. @Leanne we as fallen people cannot perfectly keep the letter and spirit of God’s law all the time. Without hearing the Gospel this would indeed drive one to despair. However, the law is but a school master to drive us to the One who died in our place and kept the law perfectly for us-Jesus. In Him we are accounted a righteous through faith. He didn’t give us a huge list to how ourselves “holy”. Many create man made rules (ie fundies: don’t smoke, wear a skirt, blah, blah, all of which are unbiblical), we have no duty as Christians to yoke ourselves to obey these.

        In fact, I suspect many of these rule makers have not the true righteousness granted by grace through faith, and so make rules to makes themselves look/feel holy when they are in fact unregenerate and like the pharisees “whited sepulchres”.

  7. Christian love is the most misunderstood command in Scripture I find. My fundie (my computer ironically keeps trying to auto correct that last term to “fun die” …seems fitting) friends will state those who fall on the greatest commandment are opting for the easy, feel good way out. And yet, when we look at how Christ loved–to betrayal and death while still forgiving–not only forgiving but asking God not to hold what we have done against us, love looks a lot harder. When one looks at I Corinthians 13, that does not sound easy. Too often I love my own opinion over the person I am talking to…and yet I Corinthians 13 says I’m suppose to be patient and kind, and look for the best of the other person.
    The Greatest Commandment is no easy requirement. And the problem is it is not easy to measure. That is the crux–we like to be able to measure–we can measure the length of skirts, how long one reads a bible, how well you’ve memorized the bible, which version you read, how many services you attend, whether you listen to ungodly music or drink…but we cannot easily measure loving others. So we fall back on what we can measure.

    1. This is a good point. You can’t ever get a check mark, or a star, for love. You’re never done. You just keep loving others, for as long as they have needs to be met, need someone to listen to them, just need to be loved. Which is always. It never ends. It’s an entire lifestyle that comes from genuinely caring for others, like Christ does.

      1. BRASS RING.

        There is no checklist. There are two stones in the narrow gate, and anyone who goes through it must put their feet firmly upon them. On each is written one of the Two Greatest Commmandments. Begin with those, look back often to make sure that your path still leads back to them, and when you fall down, with God’s help get back up. That’s the Christian walk.

        But it’s easier to have a page and a half of rules designed to define who is and isn’t pure enough to sing in the church choir.

  8. Why, the most loving thing you can do for someone is to remind them over and over again of all the ways they can end up in a “literal hell.”

    I get a kick out of the way fundies always modify the word “hell” with the word “literal.” For God so loved the world that he created a literal hell (originally meant just for Satan and his cohorts, but thankfully it works out to be a perfect eternal punishment for humans as well) so those of us who are disobedient and/or unbelieving and/or ignorant of the Old-time way can boil forever and ever, world without end. Amen. Because that’s what love does.

    And we wonder why fundies are big on inflexible rules and harsh punishment.

  9. Going off to a secular university (yes, I was a rebel) introduced me to all kinds of Christians who were not “evil” as I had been led to believe. They were supposed to be a bad influence on my faith. Fast-forward 40 years later, and many of my old fundy friends are no longer in church, and I am fully committed and blessed in my involvement with my local congregation. Keeping the law is too hard and deadens the soul.

  10. Wow, I missed a good discussion yesterday. So much of what was said there would apply here.

    Just returned from Christmas with fundy family. The one thing that my wife and I both got out of this visit was just how angry and unloving fundies really are. The further we get away from that belief system, the more apparent its hateful core becomes. Fundies are honestly some of the most unloving, miserable, angry people I know. The Bible says that we will know fellow believers by their fruits. In general, the fundies that I know absolutely lack the fruit of the spirit in any discernible way. And, for what it’s worth, I’ll just say that someone telling me how loving and joyful and peaceful they are doesn’t mean much to me when that person is doing nothing but using their religion to express hatred and misery and anger.

    1. This is a generalization; there ARE exceptions to the statement that fundamentalists are angry and unloving; I certainly know exceptions to this.

      But, I have certainly seen the other side – “How dare you question the great Man of God?!? You are no longer welcome in our house! Begone, wretch!”

    2. When I first started stepping away from certain fundamental standards, I was scared that I was sinning because that’s what I’d always been told. So I kept turning back to Scripture, and the Bible told me by their fruits you shall know them and then specified what the fruit of the Spirit was — joy, love, patience, gentleness — things that I didn’t see in some of the people who were most adamantly demanding that I hold to certain extra-Biblical standards in order to be holy. I decided that THEY were the ones who were not obedient to God despite their loud protestations of their own holiness.

      1. Coping mechanism = WE WILL NEVER SPEND SIX DAYS IN ANY FUNDY’S HOUSE EVER AGAIN. ๐Ÿ˜ˆ Even in the home of my in-laws, who give the appearance of being all normal and level-headed, but who decided that this was the Christmas to berate us for:

        (1) Not attending their church anymore. (Even a kid I grew up with who converted to Mormonism still goes to the IFB church when he comes to visit his momma BECAUSE HE RESPECTS HIS MOTHER UNLIKE MY WIFE AND ME!!)

        (2) Not being sufficiently steamed about A&E violating Duck Dynasty’s First Amendment rights. (Yes, I, who am an attorney, had to sit there and be schooled on the Tea Party version of the First Amendment, which is, of course, the only correct version. NB: Fundies read the Constitution like they read the Bible.)

        (3) Not taking the grandparents’ side while we watched Parental Guidance, opting instead to take the position that the mother in the film has every right to dictate to her parents how she wants them to treat her kids (their grandkids). (We were berated for the better part of two hours about what terrible parents we will be and how our kids will not “fear” us and how we will raise “stupid” children. I should point out that we don’t have children and aren’t planning on having any for at least a few years, so the whole lecture seemed oddly moot.)

        (4) Not letting the in-laws pretend to be hard-core IFB when they aren’t!! (My mother-in-law lectured my wife about how much better they are than us and that all other denominations of Christianity are just a “bunch of weirdos who don’t believe the Bible” while at the same time, my fundy brother-in-law went with me to the movies [picture show] and ordered A BEER during the film, which, last I checked, is a soul-damning sin, but apparently not anymore.)

        1. You are documenting this for your future semi-autobiographical psychological thriller series, right?

        2. If it makes you feel any better, my dad opened Christmas dinner with his salvo that his “hat is off to Phill Robertson, and his pants are off to Bill O’Reilly” whom he seems to think dissed the Robertsons. IDK and IDC what Bill has or will say on the subject, would prefer to have had a much classier Christmas without the bozo.

  11. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. – Rom 8:2-4 KJV

  12. Fundy’s are very unloving. I think it is because they believe the greatest commandment to be “go and make disciples” – because that is the last thing Jesus said.

    My cousin finally came out to her fundy parents. As she was leaving her father said, “I hope God takes you out of this world on your way home.” Now her mother is bitching because my cousin didn’t send them birthday or mothers/fathers day cards. Duh, you said you wish she was dead – this is what it is like.

    1. It’s so ironic: even if they believe “go and make disciples” is most important because it was the last thing Jesus said, they should finish His sentence: “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” and that includes love and compassion.

      One of the most shocking things I realized about some fundamentalists was that they actually dismiss most of Jesus’ preaching. They call it “kingdom preaching” and believe it was only for the Jews who rejected it, ushering in the “church age” and somehow magically destroying our obligation to actually obey what Jesus said. This extreme dispensationalism leads them to ignore all those uncomfortable things Jesus taught.

      1. I’m asking because I’m genuinely curious, Greg. What is your point?

        To highlight that we are all sinners in need of redeeming grace?
        To downplay the lack of “natural affection” of supposed Christian parents toward their child?
        To mock the courage of this young woman in sharing a part of herself that is views as detestable by so many?

        1. greg has no point other than to troll a comment that references homosexuals. Any mention of Calvinism, libruls or TEH GAYZ sends greg off into a tizzy.

        2. Well, Greg in a tizzy *is* a fantastic mental image.

          Maybe I should start hash tagging all my comments?

          #Calvinism #libruhls #tehGAYZ

        3. Point? I don’t have a point! I was wondering what is it that she “came out about?”

          Scorpio, you certainly aren’t one to talk about trolling, it seems you have taken on “trolling” my comments as your life’s mission!

  13. The “Love” post theme is pulling up some amusing sidebar ads for me (because I like Darrell enough to whitelist his sites in AdBlock ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) – currently I have an ad for Chinese mail-order brides; yesterday’s “Friendship Pass” post had an ad for Thai mail-order brides.
    How did your ad engine know I’m still single ๐Ÿ™ ? (Although I’ve often thought that leaving Fundamentalism was much easier for me as a single person than it would have been if I’d married a fundy girl.)
    NOTE: To clarify, I’m posting this because I thought it was funny, not because I’m offended or anything. I’m done generating moral outrage over dumb things. :mrgreen:

        1. That’s my ad as well. Go Tigers!

          The helpmeet is from Ohio. Big Buckeye fan. I’m actually a Gator fan. Urban Meyer forsook us for Ohio. He is dead to me, and I hate the Buckeyes with eternal spite. I can’t let her have bragging rights over this. Lord, please let them lose.

        2. nico – Don’t call it Ohio State to your wife. Call it Southeastern Michigan State.

          Do not blame me if you sleep on the couch as a result.

      1. Amazon, Sprint, and “The World’s Greatest Bible Software.” Boring. Usually I get ads for gay men’s dating services, gay men’s cruises (very romantic and sweet), gay men’s resorts . . . Apparently occasionally reading amateur fiction that includes two men falling in love makes me a gay man too! ๐Ÿ™„

    1. I’ve gotten the mail-order bride ads a lot lately. I find that interesting given that I’m a straight married female and I’ve never given any indication that I’m looking for companionship of any kind.

      I also get Mormon ads looking to convert me, ads for a semi-Fundystan university in Virginia, and ads for seminary. I’m interested in absolutely none of these things.

      1. Dear semp (short for semper fi?),

        Maybe it’s the fact that I graduated from Hyles-Anderson (cough) College before being forced to go back to school and get a real degree, but if you’re referring to Jerry Falwell’s school, I’d tend to give that institution a pass when it comes to being a semi-Fundystan university. In part that’s because compared to Jack Hyles or the pastor of the first ultra-fundy church I attended after getting back into the states, Jerry Falwell was a “long haired friend of Jesus.” Mainly though it’s because Jerry Falwell actually valued education, and even though the school isn’t Harvard or Yale, his school didn’t award fake diplomas.

        Graduates of many of these other “Bible Colleges” often enrolled in these institutions with the best of intentions but then ended up in “full time Christian service” not as a labor of love, but because a sub-standard education and a lack of credentials trapped them in these positions and left them with few other options. Jerry Falwell didn’t do that to people and for that reason alone I’d hate to see his school referred to in the same breath with places like Hyles.

        Respectfully,

        BP

        1. Ben,

          My remark was not meant to disparage Liberty and I’m sorry it came across that way. It is not anything like HAC/PCC/BJU in terms of rules and I know that. However, given that my ed searches have nothing to do with anything in the religious realm I just find it entertaining. This site is as religious as I get, for the most part.

          And no, “semp” is not referencing the Corps, though I am somewhat distantly in a relationship with the USMC. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. I feel so deprived. All I’m getting are ads for dog harnesses from Amazon. Never mind that I bought one from them last week, and won’t need another for quite a while.

  15. Sadly even genuine love can be twisted and corrupted by fundamentalism. I shudder to recall some of the things I said to my (very few) unsaved friends as a fundamentalist. I think I am going through some of this with my own family now.

    Looking back, I truly do believe my parents love me and want the best for me. I also believe fundamentalism has trained them to express this in some very bad ways, and to be resistant to seeing how they might be in error.

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