God’s Reign is the Reign of Right Relationships -- By: Charles O. Knowles
PP 20:4 (Autumn 2006) p. 37
God’s Reign is the Reign of Right Relationships
CHARLES O. KNOWLES is an egalitarian Southern Baptist. He retired from the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo., after thirty-four years of teaching and research. Charles and his wife, Marie, are both deacons in their local church. He is the author of Let Her Be: Right Relationships and the Southern Baptist Conundrum Over Woman’s Role.
The Bible teaches that God created man and woman subordinate to God, spiritually and socially equal to each other, and entrusted to care for creation. However, man and woman were not content with this God-ordained order; they wanted power over God. In an act of deliberate disobedience, they replaced God with self, a choice that separated them from God and from each other.1 God’s redemptive plan is to restore human beings to a new relationship with God and with each other, referred to in this essay as right relationships.2 What are right relationships? How should Christians living under God’s reign endeavor to treat others all day every day?
Right relationships and the Great Commandment
The Great Commandment is the classic New Testament expression of right relationships:
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important? “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love [agapaō] the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love [agapaō] your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31 tniv)
In this response, Jesus connected a prayer about loving God from the Shema (Deut. 6:4-9), which devout Jewish people have spoken daily for centuries, to a commandment about loving neighbors from the Levitical social code (Lev. 19:18). Believers are called to love both God, which is the vertical dimension, and neighbor, which is the horizontal dimension.
The Great Commandment summarizes and fulfills the entire law as well as the teachings of the prophets (Matt. 5:17-20; Luke 16:16-17; Rom. 13:8-10; Gal....
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