September 30, 2011

Ten Tests of Our Love of God

Baptism, like tenancy has obligations. The Parable is a warning that we are sometimes tempted to rebel against God and refuse to ‘pay the rent’. What is this ‘rent’? In our Baptism we promise ‘to continue in the Apostles teaching, in the fellowship and in the breaking of bread’ – to love and honour God. Moses explains the Ten Commandments by telling the people “God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” (Ex. 20.20)  The ten tests of our love of God are:

1. Have you recognized or given honour to other gods?
God describes himself in the Old Testament as a ‘jealous god’. He commands exclusive loyalty. The other nine tests are more specific ways of testing our love and fear of God – and keeping us in right relationship with God. These tests help us prepare for Confession and growth in our spiritual life.

2. Have you put anything in your life before your love of God?
In our time idolatry is not about worshiping statues. We live in an idolatrous generation which has put the love of money, sports, entertainers, materialism and work before the love of God. This is a key test of our relationship with God.

3. Have you honoured God in your speech?
This is a very subtle test of what is really in our heart. Our daily conversations often stray into remarks that fail to honour God or use the name of God in a frivolous manner. Words have power. We have to be very careful about not putting a cure on others when we are angry. I am very aware of the awesome responsibility when I say “I speak to you in the Name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit”

4. Have you loved God enough to set aside a whole day for rest and reflection each week?
The Sabbath is really a test of whether or not we love God (and ourselves as God’s creation) enough to get all our work done on the six days before the Sabbath. It is a test of commitment to work harder in order to obey and rest.

5. Have you honoured your parents as part of God’s order?
This test is often misunderstood. What if your parents are alcoholics or abusive? For some people honouring parents is a hard test. The issue is do we put what God desires ahead of our own comfort? Like God, we are expected to love people who may not always be likable. This does not mean we have to obey them blindly, agree with them or please them all the time. We are only required to respect their place in God’s order of creation.

6. Have you respected the lives of other people?
Most of us have not actually murdered someone – but we may all be guilty of ‘murder in the heart’ - thinking we would like to murder someone. Murder extends to gossip and destructive acts and words that can murder a person’s reputation. These are spiritual tests of personal holiness – with very serious spiritual consequences.

7. Have you been loyal to your spouse?
The marriage relationship joins two people together in union with God in the work of building His creation. It is to be a holy, loyal, vulnerable and trusting relationship. Adultery is an outward visible sign that this inner spiritual relationship of love and trust has broken down. It is also a sign that love of God has failed.

8. Have you respected the property of others?
Stealing is also about relationships and what is hidden in the heart. Stealing is evidence of a decision to disrespect the other person. There is an inner as well as an outer action. Most stealing is of course hidden – like cheating on income taxes or over-reporting hours worked. Theft destroys the spiritual order of trust and is a sign we do not love or fear God.
9. Have you told a lie or deceived anyone?
We tend to forget that God is holy and this means truth, justice and the social order is very important. In Moral Theology sin is often described as a ‘disordered’ state. Creation is ordered and anything that disrupts that order can be seen as a sign of rebellion against God.
10.  Have you wanted something that belongs to another?
‘Covetousness’ is not a word used often in our time. It means wanting more than we need or wanting something that belongs to another person. It is a test of ‘disordered’ desire - a spiritual failure to love and fear God.

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