The Biblical ‘Prime Directive’

Leonard Sweet & Starfleet General Order #1

I got to spend yesterday with author Dr. Leonard Sweet as he did a seminar on social media culture and the church. I live-tweeted some choice bits on my twitter so check those out. But he had one message that works totally with the Hacking Christianity crowd so I’m sharing it below.

In Star Trek, the first command given is General Order #1, “Do Not Interfere” which states that Starfleet personnel are not to interfere with the cultures of the planets they visit, or make allusions to space travel for cultures who haven’t gotten off the ground yet. Even though they fall short dozens of times (Memory-Alpha has a long list of violations, often due to Captain Kirk’s libido), the Prime Directive is one of the most important tenets of the Star Trek universe that is wrestled with in many episodes.

Reading the Bible, Leonard Sweet wondered what the first command given by God is. What is God’s “Prime Directive” for us?

  • In Genesis 1, the first command is “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (1:28, NRSV).
  • In Genesis 2, the other Creation story, the Human is put in the garden and told to “till and keep it” with the first command being “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden” (2:15-16, NRSV).

In light of the Prime Directive, God’s General Order #1 for us is “Do Interfere“: Do fill the earth with God’s goodness, Do bring order to the chaos, Do care for that which gives life and beauty, Do freely enjoy all of God’s Creation that we should.

As Leonard Sweet said, the Prime Directive of God is not a NO but a YES! Do Interfere, Do get your hands dirty, Do put yourself out there, Do seek justice, Do offer grace, Do all these things.

Perhaps then Holiness, or the pursuit of God’s desires for us, isn’t keeping in our ivory towers or behind clean altar rails in the church. Perhaps holiness is getting our hands dirty in the soil, getting out there, reaching out to the disordered and bringing something more to them. Perhaps holiness is reflecting on how we might best interfere with whatever our garden is. Perhaps our offer of God isn’t in the NOs but in the YESes, in the offer of God’s grace to all.

One final point: This is why I can’t stand the theology behind Praise and Worship Music. The song “Give us Clean Hands?”…I don’t think so.

I think that when we stand before God on our Judgment Day…the dirtier our hands, the better.

In what ways have you followed the command “Do Interfere” today?


(Image credit: “Star Trek” by Flickr user xtopalopaquetl, used by Creative Commons share)

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  1. says

    I think an argument could be made that God’s Prime Directive was actually issued by Jesus during the “Greatest Commandment” episode: Love God and Love your Neighbor.

    Which brings up this question – is the Old Testament The Original Series and the New Testament The Next Generation? And would then Moses or David equal Kirk (the hero who isn’t afraid to get into the middle of the fight) and Jesus equal Picard (the leader who tends to use his head more than his fists)? And then, let’s see, Islam is Deep Space Nine. And Mormonism is Voyager. And scientology is Enterprise…?

  2. says

    Yes. To not being stuck in the Ivory Tower, yes to doing God’s work. But also remember that humans were formed from the dust. Also remember that the fall was essentially from human’s trying to be God. (That they were given a limit not to eat from the tree of knowledge.) So yes do God’s work, but say no to human superiority over God. Not meaning do not try again, but remember God is with us and beyond us. We can strive towards holiness and we must get dirty, but we will always have human limits. Our faith should never be in superior human knowledge and human effort, but in a God who compels us through free will, through grace, and love to do God’s work. We must always know that we are not God, and that without boundaries, and limits we cannot exist to serve God. Do get dirty, do extend hospitality to everyone, do love God’s creation (as much as a human can), but do not know what God will do or who God will choose.

  3. Dan Brook says

    Not to be negative, because I would like to support the idea of a “prime directive” being DO — whether it’s DO be fruitful and multiply, DO love God with all that you are, DO love your neighbor as yourself, or even DO call down she-bears to maul people who make fun of you — but I might question the assertion that just because something comes first, it must be of primary importance. For instance, I once had a bit of a debate with a friend who insisted that Christmas is the most important holiday in the Christian year. When I suggested that Easter is in fact of prime importance, his response was something like, “Yeah, but Jesus had to be born before Easter could happen.” While incarnation is important, is it really primary over resurrection? I now respectfully end my all-too-serious and none-too-important critique. Thank you.

    • carl says

      Dan, I agree with you. Christmas is NOT the most important holy day. Without an Easter moment, there would be no Christmas. It is a holiday totally fabricated.

  4. says

    Great post. I think one of the things I’ve been realizing recently has been how much I segregate myself in my Christian bubbles. How much I don’t interact with my neighbors. How much I don’t interact with those I come across in the “secular” activities of my life. Right now, the “do interfere” involves connecting to people beyond my comfortable zone and letting the Holy Spirit show what He wants to do with those connections. Since God’s purpose is to re-colonize the earth with His kingdom, I’d say that involves being proactive and not focusing on what not to do, just like you mention.

    What sorts of practical things have you been doing to interfere?

  5. Brian says

    I was with you until your “One Final Point” at the end. Perhaps a quick search of the Bible would be handy to see that the “Give us cleans hands” line comes straight from Psalm 24. And, is a reference to having holy (“clean”) hands in light of the heart cleansing work that God has done in us. In fact, that entire Chris Tomlin song is basically several passages of Scripture/Biblical ideas strung together.

    I’m all for writing/reading creatively (e.g., Star Trek and the prime directive). I understand what you’re saying about having “dirty” hands. In fact, in light of Scripture, I don’t think you can call yourself a follower of Jesus if your hands are not “dirty” as you engage the World with the Gospel. But we should also be careful not to inadvertently work against God by discounting the Word that He gave us.

  6. says

    I honestly believe that God’s prime directive is to keep law and order throughout the universe. It is also his prime directive to see that we humans do not destroy the earth. In the bible there are lots of dos and don’ts. You have to remember that the word God is a family name, so when God is refered to in the O. T. it is refering to Jesus. Michael and Jesus is the one and same person. Daniel 12: 1. No man has seen God the Father at all. so when the bible refers to God rememberis is refering to the creator Jesus/Michael. Thats al I want to say for now. God bless you all. Arthur.

  7. steve whittington says

    i humbly submit to you the words of the Master recorded in John 13:34 & 35 (NASB) ” A new commandment i give to you, that you love one another even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” imho, i belive this over rides all other commands from God, Jesus fulfills the complete Law, all of God’s commands from Genesis on down to His day, by dying on the cross and is resurrected to newness of life giving us a new command, Love one another as He has loved us. i believe this to be the Prime Directive for us now. Only through this will our hands become real working hands for Him. Thank you


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