We are all burdened with thousands of rules, laws, and commands NOT to do things. “Do NOT Touch;” “Do NOT Enter;” “Do NOT Pass;” the list seems endless. Even 8 of the 10-Commandments are “Thou shalt NOT . . .” commands.
From the time we were born, our parents, teachers, friends, religion, government, and culture have been telling us what NOT to do. And as if that were not enough, we often impose many additional rules upon ourselves. Our lives have been filled with prohibitions. We are tied up in NOTs.
Psychologists have discovered that the human brain has difficulty processing negatives. As a result, negative commands are often processed by your brain without the NOT. For example, shouting, “Don’t Look!” is the surest way to get someone to look at something.
We live in a negative world, tied up in NOTs
Perhaps it’s just our sinful, rebellious nature, but being told, “Do NOT touch,” makes us want to touch. “Do NOT walk on the grass” signs make us want to walk on the grass. Being told NOT to talk, makes us want to talk back.
In the beginning, God gave Adam one simple command. God told Adam NOT to eat the fruit from one specific tree. Instead of obeying, Adam ate the forbidden fruit. That one act of disobedience opened the floodgates of sin.
We are now deluged with demands to restrain our sinful impulses. We live in a negative world, tied up in NOTs. We are heavily loaded with NOT’y rules.
Unraveling the NOTs
There is a more positive way to live, though. Jesus said,
Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
When Jesus was asked “which is the great commandment in the law?” He replied with two positive commands:
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:37-39)
All of God’s negative commands (e.g.: Thou shalt NOT have any god before Me, do NOT steal, do NOT lie, etc.) are summed up in two positive commands: Love God with all your heart, mind, strength and soul; and Love your neighbor as yourself.
In Luke 6:31, Jesus summed up the 2nd great commandment with “the Golden Rule.” He said, “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” So the way to love others as yourself is to treat them the way you would want to be treated.
The apostle Paul echoed this in Romans 13:8-10:
Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
To be set free from NOTs, you simply need to obey the two great commands:
Love God by keeping Him first in your life
Love your neighbor as yourself by treating them the way you would want to be treated
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