Opinion: Which of Jesus’ commands are we neglecting?

May 23, 2016 by

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Suppose you were to ask a Mennonite, “What does Jesus command his followers to do?” Ironically, one common response would come from the Old Testament, or at least Jesus quoting the Old Testament: Love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Or suppose you were to phrase the question differently: “What does God expect of you?” A common response would also come from the Old Testament: Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God.

This verse from Micah has cultivated political and social activism from Christians, including Mennonites, who believe this activism is our primary goal.

But I am convinced that condensing Jesus’ expectations into these two commands greatly misses the mark.

Oddly enough, if Jesus were to speak directly into our Mennonite congregations, he might ask, “You have heard it said … but what have I said to you?”

How many of Jesus’ commands could you name? George Patterson, a missionary and church planter in Central America for more than 20 years and author of Church Multiplication Guide, placed the commands of Jesus into seven categories:

1) Repent and believe (Mark 1:15).
2) Be baptized and live into your baptismal commitment (Matt. 28:18-20, Acts 2:38, Rom. 6:1-11).
3) Love God and your neighbor in a practical way (Matt. 22:37-40).
4) Celebrate the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:17-20).
5) Pray (Matt. 6:5-15).
6) Give (Matt. 6:19-21; Luke 6:38).
7) Disciple others (Matt. 28:18-20).

My experience with the Mennonite tradition has taught me to elevate commands 3 and 6. On occasion, I have been taught to care a little about commands 2, 4 and 5. Yet, clear calls to repent of sin (daily, because I’m still a sinner saved only by grace) and a clear vision to join the Holy Spirit in intentional disciple-making have been absent in my Mennonite journey. Can you resonate with this?

Jesus did command his disciples to love God and love people. But there is so much more that he expects us to do.

I do not offer this re-evaluation of Jesus’ commands to suggest that we become religiously legalistic but that we reconsider the implications of our daily love for him. Remember what Jesus said in John 14:21? “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me.”

Are you and I prepared to love Jesus enough to follow his specific commands, through the strength of his Holy Spirit? I admit that I need to love him more by obeying all that he has called me to do.

Aaron Yoder is lead pastor of First Mennonite Church in Morton, Ill.


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