God commands us to love?!

by Nikos Markogiannakis
(Athens, Greece)

Hello,

I wonder how love can be "a command" and at the same time "a choice"? Choice requires freedom and command requires obedience. Obedience is clearly not freedom.

So, it is obvious to me it cannot be both.

Regards,
Nikos

Comments for God commands us to love?!

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Jan 07, 2010
Timothy Keller
by: Nikos Markogiannakis

Thank you for the suggestion.

I checked Timothy Keller's website ... very interesting, I'll have in mind to check his book.

Thanks again.

Jan 06, 2010
Suggestion
by: Anonymous

Read "The Prodigal God," by Timothy Keller. It touches on some of the things you've mentioned here.

Jan 06, 2010
The messenger and the message.
by: Nikos Markogiannakis

I'd like to add some things to my last comment.

I think that we humans make a grave mistake when we place the message higher than the messenger. In this case the message is the Bible and the messenger is Jesus Christ and God.

I believe God's message is not static but continuous and evolving and adapted to humanity's needs at any given period of time. God didn't stop talking to humans 2000 years ago. I believe God talks to every human personally if he truly desires that.

Joy, Love & Peace,
Nikos

Jan 05, 2010
To the First Anonymous Writer
by: The Editor

Sorry, about the edits on your comment. Sometimes people mix the names up when they are responding to original submissions and comments and I go in a change the names to fit who the writer is addressing. I must've gotten mixed up when I read your comment and changed all of the "Nikos" to more generic terms (Apparently I thought the writer was anonymous for some reason). The addressee was the only thing I edited in your comment, and I'll change those back now that I see I made a mistake. I'm sorry! God bless.

Jan 05, 2010
Humans are not automatons ...
by: Nikos Markogiannakis

Dear ... (anonymous),

Really I can't see what's the reason to say that I don't believe in the Bible(?) ... But if that helps making your argument better and more believable then I can see where that fits ...

For me a truly loving parent, since you nicely compare God with a parent, helps his or her children to grow and be independent, advising them and not by issuing commands. If an earthly parent does that, don't you think God would do at least something like that too, and more?

No child follows his/her parents blindly without thinking. If God wanted us to follow Him like that he wouldn't have created beings like us with the ability to think but automatons.

Joy, Love & Peace,
Nikos

Jan 05, 2010
The Bible
by: ...

Nikos,

What I get when reading your comments is that you do not believe in the Bible... The Bible says that it is inspired by God. That God wrote it through man. In the old testament God met with Moses on a mountain and told him what to write. In the new testament the Holy Spirit came upon men and they wrote what they were led to write by God. Every word in the Bible tells us that Jesus is the ONLY way, and that we have to depend on Him.

Does your mom ever tell you to do something? Has she ever told you to clean your room? Have you ever not done it? God tells us to love, but we have to do so. We need to choose to do what he says, just like with our parents. The Bible refers to himself as our Heavenly Father. We have to choose to follow him just like we choose to follow our parents.

My main suggestion here is that if you are truly seeking the truth, then pray. Ask God to help you find the truth.

Jan 05, 2010
The freedom is in your ability to choose
by: Anonymous

Just wanted to say someone edited my answer a bit, and to note once again that the freedom is in our ability to choose.
God bless and Happy New Year to all!
Your anonymous friend

Jan 04, 2010
God punishes or not?
by: Nikos Markogiannakis

Dear S'ambrosia,

Thank you for taking the time to answer to my comments.

First let me clarify that I believe in God, although I wouldn't say that I know exactly what God is. I don't believe anyone can ever know. That's because I think God is a being that constantly evolves and changes as we evolve and change.

No prophet has ever tried to clarify exactly what God is, and even Jesus Christ personally left nothing written but what we know about him and his teachings is through others. We hardly know anything about his life besides the last few years of his life ... I believe this is so because Jesus like any other great master and prophet wanted to leave us to freely make our own choices and rely mostly on our own connection with the Divine. Jesus, like God, didn't want a constant dependence of us on him. He wanted to liberate us from our own limiting beliefs but at the same time by letting us grow on our own, on the areas where we were supposed to.

I see how you try to present God as a ruler that issues commands without force, therefore God is compassionate.

Imagine in an army unit there is a soldier and a sergeant gives him a command to do something and the soldier doesn't do it. What happens? The soldier gets punished ... The sergeant expects the soldier to carry out the command given otherwise the soldier will be punished. The word command implies force, and that's how the word is generally used. Yes, the soldier can disobey but with a heavy price. However, the force is still there.

Sorry but I can't think of God being like that. And so, I remain in the position that God gives advice and not commands.

By constantly saying that God gives commands we just make God a despot and we transcend nothing. After all these hundreds of years with this kind of words and phraseology used and tortured logic most people are scared of God and they think that God is a fearful master. Or they have abandon faith altogether because they can't make any sense of it. I had been (or thought myself to be) an atheist for a long time because religion had made me angry from all these contradictions that nobody could explain.

This whole discussion boils down on what really is justice, whether God punishes or not, and basically what is the difference between punishment and consequence.

Punishment is about retaliation and revenge. Punishment is unfair. Punishment is an outcome that is not obvious and many times is unpredictable. Our justice system is based mostly on revenge.

Consequence is simply a result. And a result that is most of the times obvious from before. The obvious reaction to an action. Consequence is a compassionate reaction, punishment is vengeful reaction. However, in order for consequence to become obvious what is required many times is experience. Without experience consequence may well look like punishment.

And that's why God gives advice so that the consequence does not look like punishment.

Joy, Love & Peace,
Nikos

Jan 02, 2010
Response to your second comment
by: S'ambrosia

Now on to your second comment. What you described about God not being able to be a compassionate ruler is actually exactly what He is! More commonly, this idea is known as the merging of justice and mercy. You're right that a compassionate ruler or merciful judge sounds like a paradox, but that's what is so transcendent ("other-than") about God. He is so far above our earthly ways of thinking that it feels like foolishness to us when we try to comprehend His ways.

If you were to study the Old Testament and Jewish culture, you would find that there are over 300 names for God. Each name describes a different attribute of God and each name is a true statement about His nature. God can't be only one thing at a time though... He is all of those things in one. It's kind of like the mystery of the Trinity, how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three different entities in one. God is just, loving, and merciful in one.

There's a song by Audra Lynn that has some lyrics that touch on this subject:

Justice carries mercy
And mercy acts in love
And love is what defines the means
By which the justice does

The awesome thing about God is that all of these attributes flow together within Him to produce the perfect response. Our sins require punishment, so the justice of God weighs our sin and deliberates a punishment. Lucky for us, His mercy steps in to grant us favor and grace so that we do not get a punishment too great. If we really think about it, laying aside our pride of self (which tells us that we deserve good things), we would realize that we deserve so much worse punishment than what we've received. The wages of sin is death. Everyday, God's justice recognizes our sin, but everyday His love covers the sin so that we are not destroyed. It's like child that is disrespectful to their parent. In some cultures, depending of the severity of the child's behavior, that child would be stoned to death. When we, ignorant creations of God's hand, dare to stand against Him (the One who created ALL things), we deserve death for being so insolent, but praise the Lord for His mercy and love. They keep up from receiving such a harsh punishment. Instead we might get a spanking, but even that is an act of love because the Lord disciplines the ones that He loves.

If I could say one thing to you to help you out, it would be that our earthly minds will never be able to completely understand the vastness of who God is. He encourages us to seek Him with all of our hearts and promises that when we seek Him, we will find Him. In that secret place where we meet with Him, He shares deep things about Himself with our hearts. He's all about intimacy. He's more than just a distant diety...He's the lover of our souls. Seek Him with all of your heart, Nikos, and see how He opens your eyes to the wonders of who He is.

Jan 02, 2010
Initial Response
by: S'ambrosia

Nikos,
I'm going to respond to both of your comments...

To respond to your initial question, I can command you belief that everything I'm about to say to you is truth, but you still have a mind of your own and can choose whether to believe me or not. Just because God commands us to do something doesn't mean we're going to do it. When He commands nature to do something, it obeys. He said at the beginning of time, "Let there be..." and there was. He says to man, "Love me with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength..." and we say, "I don't feel like it." We are the only ones in all of creation that He has given that choice to, because He loves us and only desires love from people that want to give it Him. He WILL NOT force us to love Him. There's a huge difference between commanding and forcing.

The Bible says that God, who exists outside of time, declared the end of time from the very beginning. Before He even spoke the world into existence, He knew how it would end up. This is what we would call His plan. Now, as we go through our daily lives and choose to follow or not follow Him, He's right there beside us. Some would think He created the earth and then sat back to watch everything unfold, but He is actually quite involved in everything that we do. Because He loves us and wills good for us, He says, "I know how things are going to end up, but I want to walk through life with you and lead you into the way everlasting." This is what we call His will. Again, we have a choice to follow Him or not, but that doesn't mean He's going to stop pursuing us while we're here on the earth. He'd love for us to pursue Him, but He doesn't need our affection to maintain His passionate desire for our hearts. He'll love us regardless of whether or not we love Him. So His Plan and Will are two separate things, but God works within both of them. He knows what the end of your journey looks like, but He longs to partner with you during your time here and journey with you.

Jan 02, 2010
Advice or command?
by: Nikos Markogiannakis

Dear Heather,

I don't believe God either issued any commands or punishes us. I believe God created laws only for the universe to function and so this way we can function in it. I can understand if we say that God gave to humans advice about how life can work best, but commands?

I cannot say "I command you to do this but you choose if you'll do it". It doesn't make sense. There is contradiction there. Of course you have the choice to follow the command, but from my position of being the one giving the command I expect no opposition when giving the command. Can we say that God is like that? A despot? Because that's how God is presented most of the times. A compassionate despot? How can this work?

There is vagueness about how we want to present God. Is he compassionate or a ruler? God cannot be both ... God cannot be a compassionate ruler, that's an oxymoron. However, God can be a compassionate creator.

Joy, Love & Peace,
Nikos

Jan 02, 2010
Choice
by: Heather

Everything we do in life is a choice. We choose to follow the speed limit when we drive, or we choose not to. Even though it is a law, we still choose. Love is the same way, if we choose to follow God, we choose to love others. We choose to follow God's commands. We always have a choice, but their are consequences to every choice, good or bad. Does that make since?

Dec 29, 2009
How can one choose?
by: Nikos Markogiannakis

Dear anonymous friend,

The issue about freedom is something that philosophers have pondered and discussed about since the beginning of time.

In my opinion God is not a ruler but a compassionate Creator that keeps creating. Commanding and obedience were never a choice anywhere as far as I know. One can choose to follow advice, one cannot choose to follow command. That's where I see the difference.

If one does or doesn't follow a given advice there is consequence. If one though doesn't follow a given command then there is punishment.

In consequence there is compassion. In punishment there is revenge.

What we have to decide is this: Is God a compassionate parent or a vengeful ruler?

Joy, Love & Peace,
Nikos

Dec 29, 2009
The freedom is in your ability to choose
by: Anonymous

Hi Nikos, God says in His Word, "I have set before you life and death, [you choose which one desired]. The Ten "Commandments" were given [your choice to obey]. His Son came to do His Father's Will. He chose to leave His Father's side to go through all of that pain and suffering and eventual death - He chose that out of love for you, Nikos.
God "tells" you to love. Scripture tells us that that is how we are identified, as It declares, "by this shall all men know them that are Mine."
Love - obedience it's a choice. The freedom, Nikos, is in your ability to choose.
God bless.

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