Hierarchy of absolutes

Hierarchy of absolutes

Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. – Deuteronomy 6:4-6

John 7:22-23

 22 But you work on the Sabbath, too, when you obey Moses’ law of circumcision. (Actually, this tradition of circumcision began with the patriarchs, long before the law of Moses.)

 23 For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it so as not to break the law of Moses.

Absolute Truth is defined as inflexible reality: fixed, invariable, unalterable facts. There are lots of concrete examples from mathematics of fixed, invariable, unalterable facts. For instance, there are absolutely no round squares or square circles.

The Word of God is absolute Truth. It presents absolute moral law. The Father’s moral law is an expression of His nature. The Father’s nature does not change. The Father’s kingdom is not a democracy, it is a monarchy. And the King sets the rules of His domain. And His domain is everything that has been created. His nature defines what is good and evil, what is right and wrong. Whatever the Scriptures say is sin, is sin indeed.

When it comes to history, the Scriptures are accurate in all the details. Stories, illustrations, and parables found in the Bible are used to illustrate absolute truths. The story of the rich man and the poor man Lazarus in Luke 16 teaches that the place of the dead in its present configuration has two sections separated by a great chasm. On the one side are the children of the King who are comforted, on the other side are those who are not the Father’s children. This is the only place in the Scriptures where this truth is revealed.

What happens when two or more absolutes come into conflict? Decisions are made based upon a Hierarchy of Absolutes. Children of the King are responsible to obey the higher one. At the same time, they are exempted from the duty to the lower one.

An example would be obeying the Sabbath rest when it comes into conflict with the command to circumcise on the eighth day. Circumcision was inaugurated by Abraham (Genesis 17:9-14) however in the law of Moses, it is explicitly commanded (Leviticus 12:3). Circumcision was to take place on the eighth day after birth. When the eighth day was on the Sabbath, which law takes precedence? Circumcision takes precedence (John 7:23).


When making decisions in a relationship, we are to defer to one another rather than attempt to get “my own way.” It is learning how to incorporate our combined individual preferences in such a way to promote unity and oneness.

Philippians 2:3 Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.

Father teach me the art of relational submission. Help me not to confuse my personal preferences or traditions with Your absolute Truth.


Absolute truth is one thing, but personal standards, preferences, and man-made traditions are something else entirely. Everyone is entitled to their own preferences, standards, and traditions. But no one is entitled to their own truth. Regrettably, many of us get this confused. Man-made traditions arise over time as part of our personal or group identity. This idea is recounted in the musical Fiddler on the Roof, “Because of our traditions, everyone knows who he is and what God expects him to do” (Tevye).

However, the Lord Jesus Christ not only separated man-made traditions from the law of God, but He also revealed obstacles such traditions create.

Matthew 15:3 Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?”

Mark 7:6-9

 6 Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

 7 Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’

 8 For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.”

 9 Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition.”

People have a tendency to substitute their own traditions and practices for the Father’s absolute commandments.

There was also an issue with personal standards. Personal standards are not laws to be obeyed. They are personal preferences, likes and dislikes. Many things are simply a preference: room temperature, lighting, favorite colors, music, foods, streaming media, television shows, types of reading material, what ingredients you put into your beef or vegetable soup, how well-done you prefer your meat cooked, etc.

When we confuse personal preferences with the law of God, we create arbitrary standards of performance for ourselves and others. This then is followed by judgment and condemnation for lack of compliance. This often creates tension, anger, separation, and isolation.

This results in great relational conflict. We often try to impose our preferences on others. The solution is quite simple: the golden rule. Grant others the same right to have their personal preferences as we do to ourselves.

What happens when people’s personal preferences, traditions, or standards collide?

If two individuals, say a husband and wife, or a parent and a child, both want to do something at the same time, whose desire takes precedence? This is a relational life-skill that needs to be learned, practiced, and refined.

The correct response is neither total domination and control nor total acquiescence. Rather it is committing to, learning, and practicing mutual give-and-take.

Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

It is a practical extension of the Serenity Prayer of Reinhold Niebuhr.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

courage to change the things I can,

and wisdom to know the difference.


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