A Study in Values and "Conflicting" Obligations and
Application of These Principles to the Bible's Use of the Words "Love" and "Hate"
In PART 2, a chart was given, that illustrated the relationships between our various obligations. Obligations to God ("Level 1") take precedence over all other obligations we may have. Obligations to other people ("Level 2") has the second highest priority. All other obligations come below these two levels. Here in PART 6, we will take a brief look at some of these other obligations.
It is not our purpose to explore the various items in this category in great detail. Most of them get their significance from the way they relate to the higher obligations we have to God, neighbor, and (sometimes) self. Often these higher obligations will define the issues. When examined alone, torn from such a context, the items in this "Other" category tend to lose their significance.
Many of these obligations are temporary in nature, or limited in application. In some cases, they may even be voluntarily imposed upon one's self. Few of them are associated with commands that place us under some specific kind of obligation. And even when such commands do exist, our higher obligations (regarding God and people) would take precedence, if conflict were to occur between them.
A few observations are given below:
We do love ourselves, at least in some sense (Ephesians 5:29), but there is no command for us to do so. Our tendency is to love ourselves too much. And because of this, there are commands which tell us to redirect our attention toward God and toward other people! (Romans 12:3; Philippians 2:3-11)
It has been suggested that even people who commit suicide love themselves. They may claim to hate themselves, but it is actually their circumstances that they hate. They love themselves so much that they don't think they deserve whatever the circumstances they are experiencing. They think they deserve better, and would even kill themselves, if they thought it was better than their present circumstances. (Sin and emotions can radically distort one's perception of reality.)
Here we are focusing on the "non-human" aspects of this world. When God created Adam and Eve, he told them to "subdue" the earth and to "rule over" the living creatures (Genesis 1:28). They were to learn about creation and to work with it, in ways that would result in good things being accomplished. (They were not told to pollute and destroy - activities which have become quite normal, in a world now influenced by sin.)
If we examine Scripture, we will discover that there is no command for us to love these things - at least in the sense we are told to love God and neighbor. Yet there may be some other sense in which these aspects of creation may be loved or cared for. Scripture tells us, for instance, that a righteous person will take care of the needs of any animals he may own (Proverbs 12:10).
More often than not, however, our problem has to do with loving things too much - a sin which occurs in many forms, and which is guaranteed to destroy us, unless we destroy it first.
Concerning love for creation and love for God: Never should love for any part of creation take precedence over love for God. To give any created entity (even other people) precedence over God is idolatry (Romans 1:18-32).
Concerning love for creation and love for people: We must realize that people are more valuable than anything else on earth. The whole world is not worth as much as one person's life (Mark 8:36-37). God cares for everything in the world, but he considers people to be the most valuable. Jesus illustrates this, by telling us that we are more valuable than the birds and the plants (Matthew 6:25-34). And since this is the way God values people, we also must value people more than we value the other things of creation.
Even the actions of animals should be guided by this principle concerning the value of people. For example, if an animal is aggressive and deliberately kills people (not accidentally or in self-defense, etc.), Scripture tells us that the animal must be put to death (Genesis 9:2-6). In contrast, no such command exists for the person who kills animals. People have been given permission to kill animals, and at times, God has even commanded them to do so. (This can be illustrated by the regulations regarding sacrifices). This killing of animals by people is not considered a sin. [There may be an exception to this, if the killing is being done for mere entertainment or as an expression of cruelty. This seems implied in Genesis 49:5-7. (Even then, it would not be a sin worthy of death.)]
A person may voluntarily choose to place himself under an obligation, such as when he promises to do something for God or for another person. Voluntary promises, covenants, and oaths do not apply to everyone, but only to those who make them. (This may include situations in which they are made through a representative.) They should be kept, not broken, even if keeping them results in personal discomfort (Psalm 15:4b; Ecclesiastes 5:4-6).
There are some situations in which voluntary obligations would have to be broken, such as: 1) if keeping them would cause a violation of a higher obligation, and 2) (with some limitations) if a higher authority would negate them. (See an example of this, regarding vows made to God, in Numbers 30:6-15.)
Because this issue is so greatly misunderstood, an entire section will be devoted to it. In today's world, the concept of "religion" often bears little or no resemblance to what the Bible defines as "religion." (See PART 7.)
Dennis Hinks © 2001