First Commandment promise
THERE are commands. And there are promises. And then, sometimes, there are statements that are both, such as that wonderful opening pronouncement of the Hebrew Decalogue. God is recorded as saying, ``Thou shalt have no other gods before me.'' 1 It's a command and a promise. We can easily see it as a command, see it as a signal we must heed if we're to do His will and experience His care. While the ``other gods'' of today may not go by the same names as in Moses' time, they still bid for our allegiance as seductively as ever. Among today's gods we could list gambling, pornography, and obsession with the physical body's appearance and health. And the First Commandment remains just as absolute and definite as in Moses' time--these are not to be worshiped. There can be no scrimping on morals, no hedging on spiritual values, if we are truly to obey. And to risk disobedience to the demands inherent in God's law is to risk forfeiting the protection and safety afforded us by that same law. Yes, it's easy to see the command aspects of God's pronouncement. But God, the very Principle of the universe, is also infinite Love. He is tender, and cares for His whole creation, including each of us. When He says, ``Thou shalt have no other gods before me,'' we might think of Him as saying: If you've been praying and struggling and trying to do the right thing, don't be afraid! There really aren't any other gods besides Me, Love. So you can't truly be seduced or tyrannized by evil. I am the only presence and power, and I am good, and I am Love, and I care for you. In other words, God Himself, by His very nature, assures us that there are, in spiritual reality, no other gods for us to have before Him. What a relief! Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says, ``The First Commandment is my favorite text.'' And then she spells out a few of its implications. Speaking of this commandment, she writes: ``It demonstrates Christian Science. . . . One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, `Love thy neighbor as thyself;' annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry,--whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed.'' 2 That promise need not overwhelm us with intimidation on the one hand or with complacency on the other. The command/promise aspects of God's law really go hand in hand. So, in proportion as we grasp and obey this spiritual law, we find ourselves reaping the blessings--the promises--implicit in the law. It's not intimidating, for example, to take a step forward in understanding God as the one Mind and in having no other mind or source of intelligence than this one Mind. Yet one step forward is really all we need to take each day--one step forward in expressing greater purity, love for others, and so forth. And it's not a basis for complacency, for example, to say that the one God ends wars, because that promise is inseverably linked to the command of having no other god and to doing His will. Christ Jesus referred to the essence of what the command involves when he said, ``Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.'' 3 He unquestionably obeyed this command to perfection. And the promise? His whole life, in healing after healing after healing, spills over with it. The command is always there. But so is the promise. You can really have no other god than the one God, because there is no other god to have. 1 Exodus 20:3. 2 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 340. 3 Matthew 22:37.