[Sept 10]—Keeping the Law

            What’s the relationship between the Christian and the Old Testament Law? We’ve discussed this before, but let me plagiarize myself a bit. The Law is holy, righteous, and good. The problem was never with the Law, but with us. Besides leading us to Christ (by showing us how far short we fall from his standard), it’s also useful for showing us his heart and his priorities in life. The particular applications of a law might be out of date, but the principle behind that law is as eternal as God himself, and will never change any more than he will. For example, his standard is that we sacrificially help those in need. That’s the principle. The particular application he set forth in his Law was that land-owning farmers were to leave the gleanings of their harvest to the poor. I’m not a land-owning farmer, so the application no longer applies, but the principle sure does.
            Today's passage is where Paul gives us an even deeper understanding of the Law and how we relate to it. Of course, when Jesus was asked what the most important in the Law is, he said "'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 neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
            If I love my Savior, I’ll obey him. I’ll try to please him. I won’t blaspheme, but I’ll use my tongue to praise and thank him. I’ll stay away from idols. I’ll do things his way in the areas of sexuality, marriage, child-rearing, etc.
            But—and this is an important point—mostly the way that I show love to my Savior is in how I treat other people. Yes, idol worship is disgusting to him. But a huge portion—even a majority--of this whole “obedience to God” thing is displayed in how I treat other people, especially other believers.
            That’s why Paul focuses so much here on our “horizontal” relationships as opposed to our “vertical” relationship with our Lord. The only outstanding debt between believers should be the “debt” of love to each other (because that can never be paid back). We honor our spouses and don’t cheat on them (in the mind as well as in the body). We don’t murder anyone (in the mind as well as in the body). We don’t steal from them. We don’t covet what they have.
            You see, if I truly love my neighbor, I won’t do any of these things. Not only will I not harm them, I’ll positively look out for their well-being. Love is the fulfillment of the law.
            So here’s a question on the side: Why do we need all these details? Why not just tell us “love your neighbor as yourself,” and just assume that everyone knows instinctively that that means you don’t steal from them? I can sum it up for you in three words: Deceptive sinful nature. As we studied in Jeremiah a few months ago, our hearts—and this includes our natural instincts—are deceptive above all else. It’s the easiest thing in the world for me to deceive myself into thinking that I’m loving my neighbor when I’m not. Therefore, it’s like God is saying “I want you to love your neighbor. And just to be clear, that means you don’t steal from him.”
            By the way, notice that Paul keeps using the term “neighbor” as opposed to “brother.” This applies to all our horizontal relationships, not just with fellow believers. As Jesus made clear, your neighbor is anyone you come across, especially someone in need. You love your neighbor because you love your Savior.
            I know, I know. Simple enough to say, not so simple to do. But’s it’s gotta be done. And by his grace, I know I can do better than I have been. How about you?

Father God, I sure don’t show love to my neighbor like I should. By your grace, please forgive and improve. I desperately need both.             

No comments:

Post a Comment