CHRISTIAN FIRE AND BRIMSTONE
Matthew 22:36-40 New International Version
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Years ago before I had a clue about computers, printed stuff was important. I admit after earning a degree in Literature my book reading slowed considerably and magazines took front stage—quick easy reads replaced Henrik Ibsen, Thomas Wolfe and Herman Melville. Certainly, visions from the pens of those writers and mental journeys following furrowed paths of the classics are still with me and likely always will. Yet today, today I look at a simple statement from the Christian Bible and see what is likely the most powerful influence developed in my life.
In the early years, I must have read those bible words about the “greatest command” but was somehow more concerned with hell, fire and brimstone. Christian religions used a lot of hell and condemnation to win souls to the truth. Scare them is more like it and it did scare me. I did not connect with the God of “love your neighbor as yourself” in everyday life. I did not connect with the God of mercy and forgiveness. However, those condemned sinners bobbing along the torrent of rivers of blood were easy to visualize.
The Preacher Man ©2012 Thomas Haynes
Time is the path and fogger of memory as to just how I got here today. The fear of brimstone has eased and I feel forgiven through my mistakes. I see a strong and comforting shade tree beside a gentle stream and that peace will be with me when I leave this life. I don’t feel that peace every day. Struggles of life distract and tug other directions. But I have confidence that tree is there and in strength will always be when I settle enough to look and put my confidence in loving God “with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind”.
I did not and cannot learn to feel that sort of love while toting a censor full of smoking brimstone. Do not think I am dismissing fire and brimstone because I do believe there is punishment and wrath for those who have put God away in a box with old Mr. Bill dolls, worn out Hot-wheels™ and puzzles missing pieces. You will not find that love at the end of a crusader’s lance or from a scolding gossip at a church service, full of indignation though they be.
Greatest Command, the Song
I sat down by that comforting tree and I heard Him say, “That was the first and greatest command and here is the second one…” The words sink in...everyday again. Getting it to work as a part of me is the goal. Some days are better than others and all are better than that old road littered with fire and brimstone.