The First Commandment forbids us from having other gods. Does that rule still apply, or is it just a dusty, archaic command?
by Rev. Gaven Mize
Have you ever heard of a Labradoodle? How about a Bullhuahua? Certainly you have heard of a Schnoodle, right? No? They are designer dogs–canine creations that allow you to pick and choose the breed of your fancy. The fad of mixing one breed of dog with another breed to make the cutest possible puppy is overwhelmingly popular. After all, add the label “designer” to something, and it makes everything better, right? All you need is the right tag.
While it might be just fine to see a designer dog inside a $500 designer puppy carrier hanging off the arm of the most recent designer celebrity, when it comes to Lutheranism and our confession of faith, we refuse the designer god. Instead, we confess what God has commanded, “We shall have no other gods.” We are not allowed the liberty of picking and choosing a god as if the one and only true God is a mutt, or worse, that the Gospel is a carrying case for whatever dog we might find to be the cutest. We are not the ones that get to pick a god from different breeds of religions. We don’t get to shop for our gods, saying, “This is the one that I am the most happy with. I’ll take that one.”
We live in a culture of civic choices. We are free to choose our educational institutions, our spouses, even our elected leaders. But as baptized Lutherans, we are not free to choose our own God. Dr. Martin Luther wrote about the First Commandment in his Large Catechism:
Therefore it is the intent of this commandment to require true faith and trust of the heart which settles upon the only true God, and clings to Him alone. That is as much as to say: See to it that you let Me alone be your God, and never seek another.
“To Him alone.” That means that we are to cling to God alone. We are not free to choose our own god. As Christians, we are bound to the love of Christ, the love shown in His death on the cross. We are not free to choose a non-sacrificed Christ, a Lego-style, pieced-together god that exists only for our amusement.
On our own, we chose nothing good. In fact, our sinful nature would automatically choose a god that does not forgive us all our sins. If we had it our way, we would be damned. But praise be to Christ, to the Lamb who was slain, that we do not choose our gods. Instead, Christ has chosen us. He has given us the gift of being the people of God. He has made us His own by His death and resurrection.
So, how do we avoid and reject designer religions? We respond with God’s most Holy Word. When God says, “You shall have no other gods,” He means, “You shall have no other gods!” We take God at His Word, just as we do when Christ says, “This is My body; this is My blood.” When God speaks, His Word is truth, and when He has something to say, we simply respond by saying, “This is most certainly true.”
When God says, “You shall have no other gods,” He includes the pick-and-choose-your-own-religion mentality. He reminds us that the one, true God does not exist apart from His Holy Word. He tells us God is a God of His Word, the same Word that became flesh and dwelt among us.
We know exactly who God is. He is the God of love and forgiveness. He is the God of the cross and of the empty tomb. He is the God who makes Himself known by His Word and His Sacraments. He is the God who would have us know Him in His crucified flesh and by His Word resurrected.
We don’t need a godadoodle, a godhuahua or a godschnoodle. We have Christ. We have His Word. We have our God made flesh, crucified and resurrected for our atonement. And that is all we need!
About the Author: The Rev. Gaven Mize is pastor of Divine Savior Lutheran Church, Shepherdsville, Ky.