If you’ve been watching television since 1966, then you’ve most likely heard of Captain Kirk, the United Federation of Planets, Starfleet, and the Starship Enterprise. If you only started watching television in the 80’s then you probably managed to see the Next Generation with Captain Picard, or Deep Space Nine, or Voyager, Enterprise, or even the latest show: Discovery.
If you’re a real fan, you’ve probably watched every episode of every franchise, all of the movies, and you might even be able to speak a few words in Klingon (though I will neither confirm nor deny any such allegations).
Even if you’re not a fan, you’ve probably run across the show at one point or another, and heard the characters talking about something called the Prime Directive. For those of you who might not have heard of this, the simple paraphrase is this:
No Starfleet personnel may interfere with the normal and healthy development of alien life and culture.
Captain Picard once said that “The Prime Directive is not just a set of rules. It is a philosophy, and a very correct one. History has proved again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous.”
And then, of course, every one of the franchises has an episode where they go through a painstaking decision making process to determine if they would really be breaking the directive by helping out another culture, and usually things end up going sideways.
It’s a simple concept, but one that is not always easy for the characters to follow.
The Christian Prime Directive
These characters in Star Trek had this philosophy that infused their entire life, which they had sworn to uphold, even to death.
We too have been given a simple set of commandments that are to guide our lives.
In today’s Gospel reading we hear Jesus telling his disciples that “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” Or, as he says in various other places in John, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” And he also tells the disciples “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Looking at these commandments we see that this is a simply a different form of the Greatest Commandment:
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
- Love your neighbor as yourself.
These are the Christian Prime Directive
Everything that we need to know about living out our lives with God and community can be handled through those two commandments.
The First Commandment
The first commandment is straightforward and simple. Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. The “heart” in this passage doesn’t actually mean your passions or drive, motivation, etc. Here it refers to your center of logic, your thinking parts, your brain.
The Soul refers to that sense of passion, those things that make you unique and make you you.
The Mind refers to something more like your “conscience.” In other words, something that takes the passions you have and the logic you’re thinking and makes a decision between on what you know to be true, and what you want or desire.
We can follow this simple commandment by coming to church and hearing God’s word, listening to sermons, taking part in Bible Studies in the evening, or the Sunday Schools between services. We can spend time talking with other believers about God, and thereby getting deeper knowledge of the Word. In other words, Seeking God.
Sometimes, though, we may find that our passions have a different idea, and we might want to skip Church altogether and watch football on TV, or skip church and take a 4 hour motorcycle ride through the mountains. Or maybe we feel that God is trying to draw us to volunteer activity, and we would rather watch movies or work on our hobbies, or spend time doing anything else that furthers our own agenda.
Now, I’m not saying that these things above are always wrong. Not at all. We may need to grant ourselves these things occasionally to take care of ourselves spiritually. <pause> Only you can decide for yourself what your motivation for doing these things really is. If we choose too often to follow our own passions, rather than making the decision to follow this commandment to love God with – essentially – our entire being, we may find soon enough that we have developed an idol of our own making – something more important to us than our relationship with God.
Love God. Keep his commandments. Simple; but not always easy.
At least not when there’s motorcycles to ride and mountains nearby.
Now, the second commandment is to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Or, in John’s words, “Love one another.” It seems simple enough, doesn’t it?
For those of you who have attending “The Story” Bible Study, you’ve probably heard me tell the story about a shooting at an Amish schoolhouse in (Nickel Mines) Pennsylvania in 2006. This story has stuck with me since I first heard it: A man barged into a schoolhouse and shot ten 10 young girls, killing 5 of those girls. Then he shot himself.
These Amish people, only one day after having performed the funeral services for their own daughters, attended the funeral service of the man who had killed their children. They all hugged the widow, and the man’s children. Later on, they raised money to support this man’s family.
Now, people being people, the Amish were accused of not caring that their own kids died, since they had “Gotten over the tragedy too quickly.” The Amish, however, responded that they were still grieving for their own children, but that the family of the shooter had lost a husband and a father, and that they were grieving too.
When asked how they could possible forgive someone who had killed their children and love the family of that same man, the Amish responded: “God has commanded us to love one another. That is what we are doing.” When asked if it was difficult, the answer was, “Of course it is difficult. We grieve for our loss every day, but we have been commanded to forgive sins and to love one another. That is a choice we have to make every single day.”
Now, to me, while it doesn’t involve an actual death, it feels to me like these Amish people are embodying Jesus’ words from today’s Gospel that “Greater love has no one than to lay down their lives for another.” They are acting upon the commandment to love one another by choosing to lay down their own lives and feelings to show love to the grieving family of the shooter.
This, I believe, where the second portion of the Second Commandment comes into play. The second portion states that we are to “Love our neighbors, as we love ourselves.”
If we know that we are forgiven by Christ, then we know that we can forgive those who harm us by accepting our forgiveness.
If we know that we are loved by God, then we can know that we can muster the love to give to others, by accepting and internalizing the Love God has for