FOREVER AND A DAY

In modern American culture, knowledge of the Bible has in many ways been reduced to “God bless you’s” and an unusually helpful advantage in Jeopardy. Stop nearly anyone on the street, and they could tell you the basic gist of many Bible tales - Adam and Eve eating forbidden fruit, Noah building a colossal ark, Moses parting the Red Sea - but a minority of these people would profess a belief in the Christian God. How could they? Old Testament stories are seemingly beyond ridiculous. They’re good lessons for kids, but every rational person knows that snakes can’t talk, Noah’s family wouldn’t have survived a worldwide flood and miracles? They’re just not feasible. The common sentiment regarding modern Christianity is that Jesus was a great moral teacher, but the rest of the Bible is totally different - full of strange commands, a wrathful God hell-bent on destroying entire peoples, and, quite honestly, written so long ago that it simply can’t be trusted. However, what if we looked at the Bible not as disjointed pieces of ancient writings bound together, but considered it as a unified narrative? When we do, we find that the teachings of the Old and New Testaments, though spanning thousands of years, exist in harmony. The unity of Scripture allows us to treat the Bible as an atemporal message to humanity. Ultimately, the Gospel demonstrates how God’s plan of redemption unfolds over time and how His love for us has never changed.

The Old Testament contains various teachings that were not only relevant thousands of years ago, but are also foundational for the New Testament and the lives of all people today. Though it is partly a history of the Israelite nation, it should also be viewed as a Testament to an unchanging God. The Ten Commandments, one such Old Testament teaching, were provided on Mt. Sinai to guide the Israelites in how to live as God’s chosen people amongst the surrounding nations.[1] They can seem rigid – literally, written in stone – and straightforward and a contrast to Jesus’ answer to the Greatest Commandment thousands of years later: “Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.”[2] Yet ironically, all the teachings of the Old Testament, including the Ten Commandments, can actually be narrowed down to the commandment to love God. When we love God with our whole hearts and minds, we cannot have other gods before Him or take His name in vain. When we love Him with our strength, we depend on Him for Sabbath rest. When we love our neighbors as ourselves, we will not kill, steal, covet, commit adultery, or bear false witness.[3] In fact, everything in the Bible shows how God, a stable and constant Creator, wants a deeper, loving relationship with us, to the point of coming down and meeting us on Mount Sinai. Though our hearts are fickle, causing our attitudes to fluctuate around a similar level of brokenness, the fact that both the Old and New Testaments contain the same underlying message sheds light on our unchanged human nature: so prone to turn away from God by idolizing our desires and depending on everything but Him. From the time of Moses to Jesus to now, God undoubtedly reminds us to love Him foremost.

The unity of the Bible’s message and the timeless connection of the message itself to the nature of humanity are what make God’s words to us both universally applicable and transcendent of time. Although the times, situations, and people these teachings were given to were different throughout history, the overarching message has remained the same. Looking at the Scriptures and even extra-Biblical history, we see several individuals chosen by God to share His message with people of many cultures. Elisha’s curing of the leprous Naaman (9th Century B.C.), a military commander from a nation traditionally hostile to Israel, shows the transformative power of “loving your neighbor as yourself” in a world where people did anything but; Naaman left praising God above any god he had previously believed in.[4] Jesus passed on this message to His followers through His Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (33 A.D.), and in the same breath told his followers that they would do far greater things than even He did on earth. His teachings and miracles were meant to continue throughout all time – that through His disciples, God could call His lost people back to Him forever. They carried the same unifying message of the Bible to the Romans and Greeks (2nd Century A.D.) considered to be the most progressive and advanced societies of the time who, with time, took hold of the truths they heard. In the age of Muslim bans, anti-immigrant rhetoric, and wall building, “loving our neighbor” remains a message all people need to hear and take to heart in the aim of peace. As academics, future planning, and instant “likes” on Instagram become our idols, our focus must turn to loving and living for God first to prevent us from being consumed by the world around us. For a humanity today that is continually losing its grip on respect for anything, including itself, God’s atemporal word to come back to Him rather than to be enslaved to our nature holds just as much weight today as it did in ancient times.

This atemporal word finds its culmination in the Gospel of Jesus Christ – not just Jesus’ teaching but His whole person. Jesus chose to clothe his immortal self with the temporal to step into our time by giving us his living, breathing self who ate and slept and lived just as every other human had before and has continued to since. Jesus’ life shows us how we can practically live out the message God has been giving us since the beginning of time: to fall back in love with the God that first loved us. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”.[5] Jesus coming as a human is the best news the world could have; God did not choose to leave us in our sin or with a path to salvation that relied upon our works, but out of His grace gave us Jesus as a propitiation for our sins through His death on the cross. Ultimately, his resurrection from the dead has given us an unceasing, unfailing hope that time has no dominion over us – that our lives have been refashioned for the eternal and filled with the power to strive for it as Jesus has given us the right to become children of the timeless God.

My dear friends, I’m not writing anything new here. This is the oldest commandment in the book, and you’ve known it from day one. It’s always been implicit in the Message you’ve heard. On the other hand, perhaps it is new, freshly minted as it is in both Christ and you—the darkness on its way out and the True Light already blazing! - 1 John 2:7-8 (MSG)


[1] Exodus 20:1-17

[2] Matthew 22:37

[3] Romans 13:8-10

[4] 2 Kings 5:1-19

[5] John 1:17

Emily Schutsky (a biochemistry PhD student) with her underrated chocolate banana smoothie, Grace Cho (a junior nursing student) with her year-round iced ristretto soy latte, and Sebastian de Armas (a senior business student) with his tall passion iced tea, sit down at a table in Starbucks and enter into a months-long conversation about the eternal. The result? They come out loving Jesus far beyond the barriers of time.

Discussion

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