8- The Mark

Part 8 of the Series, God the Love Story Autumn

The book that the commander tossed at my feet was square, about seven inches on each side. It looked home-made because it was put together with a golden ribbon that wound its way through punched holes at the top and on the cover it only had a big sticker of an angel child wearing a hooded coat with a Christmas tree in her arms. Hand written letters titled this odd book, The Mark.  In a fog of disbelief that the commander returned to me, and that my chase was over, I simply looked up at him and stared. Even the wind had stopped. Was I forgiven?

“Don’t just ogle me; read the book! It doesn’t get any clearer than this! You want to know the commands, read them, study them. Eat them, for Christ’s sake!” I hugged the little book and kissed it to show my gratitude, tears still trickling from my eyes.

Then I lifted the cover to find a page that said, ‘This book is for people who like very deep and complex subjects made extremely simple.’ Well then that was for me, I thought. The next page listed the fruit of the Holy Spirit which are Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Longsuffering. Mildness. Fidelity. Modesty. Continence. and Chastity. Under this oval shaped list was a quote of Jesus from John, the Evangelist that read “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit because apart from me you can do nothing.

My mind bounced back and forth from Jesus’ words to each kind of fruit wondering what the fruit had to do with the commands. I supposed that if I memorized the commands, but more than that, if I let the commands change me, it would be exactly like Jesus living inside of me instead of just me in me. The fruit would be the test, like testing a math problem: addition with subtraction and subtraction with addition. I always liked math because truth lives in math! Me + commands = fruit. Fruit - commands = me. Following those thoughts I was more anxious than ever to read the commands.

The next page demanded more patience because it was the introduction and still not the commands yet.

Since you can’t see the book, here is some of what it said:

The commands of Jesus point the way to the perfect life. The perfect way of thinking, behaving, relating, accomplishing, and living of the eternal life which begins on earth. Time and again Jesus referred to the necessity to obey His commands. These commands of Jesus are the target, the mark, which - being his words – actual describe Himself. In other words, Jesus is the mark and his commands are the mark. To obey His commands is to hit the mark and thus become like Him. To deny them, ignore them, overlook them or rationalize them away is to miss the mark (sin). To attempt, no matter how poorly, to hit the mark is the Christian way of life.”

There was more to the introduction but I was anxious to get to the commands so I flipped through the pages. Finally, on page seven the commands began. They were numbered one to ninety-five. Each command had its Gospel reference. Most commands had more than one reference.  Here are a few:

1. Be mild, patient, longsuffering.

2. Be generous.

3. Make and maintain peace.

As I read the commands a funny thing happened. I got bored! Imagine that! All of this chasing and crying and sore feet and here I was looking the commands smack in the face and I wanted to find a better book, maybe Huckleberry Finn or something.

4. Don’t swear.

5. Don’t resist the evil man (who injures you); if anyone strikes you, turn the other cheek (and let him hit that on too.)

6. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.

“AAahem!” the commander cleared his throat to speak. I had forgotten all about him! Upon hearing my thoughts, He said, “It is also boring reading football plays, and war strategy. All of these things mean the most when they are needed. You will understand. For now memorize, so when you are in a situation, you will know what to do. You must develop the discipline of an athlete or a soldier to become a true disciple!”

Geez, I felt like I should salute him when he said that! Instead I looked up and asked the commander if I could keep the book to study on my way to Christmas.

“The book is yours,” the commander replied. “but get up and be on your way. Christmas is around the corner and I must leave you.” He reached for my hand to help me up and then he squeezed it with unusual strength for such a small figure of a man. Without another word the commander turned and headed west.  

Obediently, I resumed my journey while trying to memorize the commands. As I walked I looked up from time to time and wondered how I could ever change so much.

7. Love your enemies and pray for those who hurt you.

8. Be perfect; grow into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character.

9. Forgive people who have sinned and don’t be resentful.

10. Do not judge, criticize, or condemn others.

11. Be on guard against men whose nature it is to act in opposition to God.