The Chemistry of Obeying God

In the days of Plato and Aristotle, chemistry appeared
to be a simple science. Philosophers postulated (understandably, given the absence of
microscopes), that the universe consisted of just four elements: water, earth,
fire, and air. 

Later, as science became more sophisticated, the list of
“basics” began to grow. 

 Mercury, sulfur, and salt were seen to possess important qualities, and various metals
were being recognized on their own merits, rather than simply lumped into the
“earth” category.

Today, chemists refer to the Periodic Table, a growing list
of more than one hundred natural and man-made elements. But a chemist would tell you that there is more to the world than elements - there is something even "smaller" than that: atoms.  An atom simply consists of a nucleus, with electrons whirring around it. 

Looking at things at the element-level, the world seems complex.  But zooming in even further, to the atomic level -- well, it's actually rather simple.

What does this have to do with obeying God?

If we went back in time to interview the Pharisees of Jesus’
day (a group of highly-religious rabbis and committed Jews), asking them what
“elements” form a God-centered life, they would probably take us to the Pentateuch,
the five books of Moses’ law. There, in
black and white, they would show over six hundred rules people needed to follow
to obey God. No doubt they would begin
expounding some of the countless self-imposed regulations they had adopted to
insure that the six hundred rules were never broken.

Obeying God was extremely complicated.

We can understand why an expert in these laws stood up to
test Jesus, asking simply, “Teacher, what is the most important commandment in
the law?”

“Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all
your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest
commandment. A second is equally
important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these
two commandments’” (Matthew 22:37-40, NLT).

No long scroll. No spiritual Periodic Table. No list of do’s and
don’ts. Just the core of what it means
to honor God: love Him and love the people around you.

Of course, all those “elements” written by Moses are still
important, but there is something deeper. There is something simple beneath the complication. 

I know many people who feel like obeying God is impossible
for them. They are willing to try, but
they’ve given up on ever reaching the goal. They compare their lives today with what they know life ought to be, and
to them, spirituality looks impossible. The
list of life-changes is just too long and too difficult.

Consider the “Periodic Table” of Christian life elements:
Bible study, prayer, honesty, purity, patience, kindness, self-control, time
with God, time with family, fellowship, world missions, sharing the gospel,
hospitality, suffering for righteousness, risk, holiness, faith, giving,
volunteering -- whew, that list could discourage
anybody. How can we even remember all
that, let alone live it?

All the elements are important, and worthy of our attention. But look deeper. They all share something, and if you can
master that one thing, you’ll be well on your way toward God’s best. You’ll be able to live as Jesus did. 

What’s the one thing?  I think of it this way: love is the atomic center of what God requires
from us.
  Learn what it means to love
God, and express true love toward the people he made, and you’ll find yourself
automatically incorporating the “elements” into your life, even if you don’t
know what they all are.

How does one go about loving God? My hunch is that it’s very similar to the way
we express love toward people. But I’ll
leave that discovery to you.

I originally wrote this article for the Marco Island Sun Times.


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