The Law of Love

I've touched on this subject before, but after several years’ worth of hard reading and thinking, I fancy I have a better developed, more nuanced, view. But there's a lot to it, and it's hard to know where to start. I suppose it sort of follows on from some of the thoughts in myprevious post.

We humans appear to like rules. We know where we are with rules; they establish boundaries which we know we oughtn't to cross. But you know what? Most of us are rubbish at obeying rules - even though we like them. We 'push the boundaries' of whatever it is - at best. At worst, we ride roughshod over the rules and go our own way. That’s free will and our rebellious nature coming to the fore. And, somehow, it’s sort of ‘built in’ (some might call that the ‘sinful nature)… Unless something is forbidden, we aren’t all that bothered, but ban it, and doing that very thing becomes our obsession. Think of the child told not to touch the stove-top because it’s hot!

The church has rules - a mixture of some of the Old Testament laws, with a few other 'cultural' rules thrown in for good measure, all ‘papered over’ with a thin veneer of New Testament love. Really, the message often seems to be 'obey the rules and you'll go to heaven'. It's almost 'justification by works'. And we don't; we can't follow the rules (see above) - in pretty similar fashion to the Israelites who couldn't follow the Law God gave them! Guilt, fear, and shame ensue, all too often.

It can often appear that God and the church work on that guilt and those fears. Are we good enough? Have we done enough? If I was to confess more, pray more, read the bible more, be more faithful in having my 'quiet time’, God might love me. But it doesn’t appear to work, and we feel guilty and condemned by our inability even to be faithful in these ’small’ things.

But there is another way. That's why Jesus came.

Restored relationships replace rules.(Nice bit of alliteration there, eh?)

That sentence, for me, sums up the Gospel - the Good News of the New Covenant. We may come back to exactly how that works in another post - okay? Please just ‘take it as read’ for now.Jesus took the Ten Commandments and he distilled them until two remained - which sum up everything the Old Testament Law set out (and could be said to have failed?) to achieve...

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22: 34-40

He also said, in much the same vein:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13: 34-35

And:

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15: 12-13

And then - and this is the single most important thing that has happened in the history of the world - He went off and presented Himself as a sacrifice - literally laying down His life for His friends, and those who would become his friends.

And that really is all that there is to it. We are commanded to love each another. If we let it, that is what will actually set us free. All that other stuff, the rules and obedience, pale into insignificance and unimportance in the face of doing what we’re commanded: loving one another. I might almost say that, in obeying the second of Jesus’ greatest commandments, we ‘automatically’ obey the first.

Where is God in this? How do we meet Him?

Well, for me, I find increasingly that I meet God by being in relationship with others - in being loved and loving.

And that, I think, leads into another post.

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2020