“You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3 NIV) What does this mean? According to Luther's Small Catechism, "we should fear, love and trust in God above all things.” Understanding the answer to this question was profound in my spiritual formation as a child. It is a powerful question, giving one pause to consider as God Himself gave this powerful command, “You shall have no other gods before me” to the Israelites through Moses.
Knowing what it means to have no other gods before Him is truly a good thing; however, the real challenge is understanding what that actually looks like in practice! Biblical commands are important to know but they must be put into practice!
Therein lies the challenge to move from truth to praxis. In other words, how do we take truth and put it into action? How do we take these words of truth--this command, to have no other gods before Him-- and actually do it? I'll be honest, I fail everyday at living out that command. Yet that does not minimize the absolute significance of the command. Like Paul (and perhaps many others), I relate with, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15 NIV) But thanks be to God that Paul learned and taught, through the power of the Holy Spirit in his life, that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)
God’s grace is a truth our hurting world needs to hear. How can we share that truth with others? What does it mean to live out that truth in our own lives? In other words, how do we move from truth to praxis?
Jesus not only provided the answer to this, but modeled patterns to help us move from truth to praxis. A sampling of Jesus’ patterns can be found in Luke 6:12-19. I would challenge you to pause at this point, pick up your Bible, use your phone app or simply Google it; but please read the text. Ask yourself what patterns Jesus modeled for us in those passages from the Gospel of Luke before reading on.
A few years ago, I began seeking to learn more about discipleship; and, to this day, I continue to increase my knowledge and understanding on this. Along the way, I came across a writing by Henri Nouwen titled, From Solitude to Community to Ministry, in which he unpacked the Luke 6:12-19 text by highlighting three patterns Jesus modeled for his disciples as, He not only invited them, but challenged them to move from truth to praxis.
First, Jesus took time to be with his Father. “…Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” (Luke 6:12). He spent time in solitude with his Father. He listened in order to know his Father’s will. We must ask ourselves: Are we taking time to listen to our Father?
Second, he gathered his disciples. He promoted and fostered community. He brought together like-minded individuals--individuals he had been investing in and doing life with; that were being formed to work together despite their difference. Some 2,000 years later, it is a celebration that Christ-followers today are evidence unity can not only exist, but thrive in the midst of diversity.
Finally, he modeled the pattern of ministry. To minister is to serve. In the Luke passage, we read that Jesus ministered to others by teaching and healing -- and elsewhere we read he fed a few folks!
Empowered by the Spirit, we move from truth to praxis by embracing the patterns modeled by Jesus: to spend time in solitude with God; spend time with other Christ-followers; minister to a hurting world with the time, talents and treasures each has been blessed with “for we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)