Charting the events and societal climate in the lead up to the birth of Christ, the pastor of my local church recalled the 613 laws of Torah (a.k.a. law of Moses) recently; the Jews of the preceding centuries had created and enforced these in order to more perfectly keep the Ten Commandments. Of course, you’d probably be thinking, ‘How on earth would anyone keep all those laws?’
I was thinking it could only be a person who became a professional law-keeper i.e. someone who had nothing else better to do. And this is how I find people who’re legalistic. They’re very quick to detect the presence of sawdust in someone’s eye, yet they patently fail to see the plank in their own (Matt. 7:3-5).
Now, we know that keeping the Ten Commandments isn’t actually possible. God proves the most significant point in this. We sin; therefore we need a Saviour—in order to live a life connected with God. We also know that without grace this wouldn’t be possible. God is love and he wishes for a healthy and vibrant relationship with each of us, always based in truth. The principle of love defeats any amount of commandments—it cuts to the core of any issue (i.e. it doesn’t miss the mark) and it passionately goes beyond the law.
He (through Jesus) created one law—well two actually; it’s two within one—but the law is simply to love; first God, then others (Matt. 22:37-39). But love—in this regard—is one of the most confused concepts known to humankind.
When I began writing this article, I thought about all the other illustrations of legalism I could cite for the 614th law. I thought of all the works we bring to God without a true worshipful heart (Ps. 51:17; Hos. 6:6). I thought of all the limits we place upon ourselves in what we think God is saying to us. Not every time we think God is relating with us is he. There is another who masquerades as God (2 Cor. 11:14). I also thought of our pre-judging dispositions—taking on the Almighty’s role. How often do we make our ‘own laws’ and then try to fit people and situations to them? Yes, in these, we’re deluded.
But, truly, the 614th law smashes all the preceding 613. It’s really as simple as that. Sure, from the practical viewpoint we need to abide by the laws of the land. But even these are designed out of an assertion of love i.e. duty of care.
These spiritual laws are also based wholly and solely on the premise of love—a thing that necessitates a relationship with God, because our nature is not to love; it is to sin.
Every deed and word can be defined as loving or unloving. And this is also why we need a relationship with Jesus—the only One who ever loved perfectly or ever will. He tells us via the Holy Spirit what deeds and words of ours are loving or unloving. He is our screen. This is how we more adequately love God and others.
This is the manifestation of the eternal law: that we are so attuned to love in God that we know it distinctly and instinctively, even in the moment, and also as we transgress. Love, therefore, has the final word in our lives—always—no matter the sacrifice of our own pride. And in this we see the power of sin routinely defeated and relational outcomes continue to soar.
© 2009 S. J. Wickham.