I’ve been homeschooling our kids since kindergarten (they are in 4th and 5th grade now), and I’m also a co-host and co-coordinator of a homeschool group that meets at host’s homes once a week. One of the classes I teach for our homeschool group is a Bill of Rights class. In that class, I’m teaching the students what the original intent of the Founding Fathers was when they wrote the Constitution, how the courts have eroded its meaning over the last 80 years, and how they can become defenders of the Constitution’s original intent.
My heart behind teaching that class is the Great Commission – “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20. The religious and speech freedoms that are protected under the Bill of Rights provide a mechanism to more easily fulfill the Great Commission within our nation. But the more the courts misconstrue the language in the Bill of Rights, the more the government infringes upon religious liberty for the sake of “other rights” (see for example, Arlene’s Flowers vs. State of Washington).
I’ve been showing the kids that James Madison writing, “congress shall pass no law abridging the freedom of speech” in 1789, later became interpreted in 1941 by Justice Hughes to instead mean “while the government cannot regulate the content of speech, the government can always regulate the time, place, and manner of said speech”. Then by 1973 Justice Burger added to the regulation by ordering that content actually can be regulated in certain circumstances, as long as that regulation passes a 3-part test. Now the free speech standard is a far cry from its original intent.
Sadly, the same can be said of God’s Holy Scriptures. When Moses wrote the Book of Deuteronomy around 3,500 years ago, the greatest commandment – “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5) – meant something different than most modern-day Christians think it means today. In the Hebrew language, “love the Lord” is “ahavath eth Yahvah”. “Ahavath” comes from the root word “ahava”, which means “love.” But unlike the English word for “love”, which means “an intense feeling of deep affection”, the Hebrew word “ahava” means something much more.
Ahava is made up of three Hebrew letters – aleph (א), hey (ה), and vet (ב ), and the root word is hav (הו), which means “to give”. Thus, rooted in the Hebrew word for love is the action of giving. Therefore, ahava is not a feeling based love, but it is an action based love. Knowing that, we should understand the great command differently. To love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and strength is TO GIVE to the Lord all your heart, soul, and strength.
However, if one were to listen to most contemporary Christian music, one would think loving the Lord was equivalent to some kind of high-school romance or Hallmark love story. Being a Christian has come to mean someone who has “fallen in love with Jesus” as opposed to someone who has repented of his sins (Matthew 4:17), died to his sinful desires (Romans 6), and became born again in Christ Jesus (Galatians 2:20).
As Christians, we must understand the original intent of the Holy Spirit in writing the Bible. This requires the discipline and dedication to study the Scriptures yourself and not just rely on the lukewarm teachings of today’s motivational speakers that call themselves “pastors”.
We must stand firm on the truth of God’s word and not allow it to be eroded, devalued, and misunderstood as it has been by so many. “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Titus 1:9. Let’s not merely fall in love with Jesus. Let’s offer to Jesus our lives as He has so freely offered His to us.