Friday, October 26, 2012

Loving God and Neighbor

Sorry for my absence.  What a busy week for my job!

Something struck me as Aaron was preaching this past Sunday on Galatians 5:13-18—the section "through love serve one another.  For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"

The first thing I notice is that Paul says the the law is fulfilled in the one word or command.  This is puzzling because Jesus explicitly stated that the law is summed up in two commands:
And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."  (Matt 22:37-40)
Some might think that there is a disconnect between Jesus and Paul in their understanding of the Law, but if we look at the original Mosaic context, this disappears.  First, as pertains to God:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.  (Deut 6:4-9)
Moses has just recounted the Ten Commandments and wants to drive home the main point: YHWH is the only true God, so love to him is demonstrated by learning and understanding his righteous demands, then teaching them to others.

Then there is the command concerning neighbors:
You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.  You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.  (Lev 19:17-18)
God has been giving instruction on how to treat other people: treat them like you would treat yourself in the same circumstance.

The conclusion I get from these passages on God and men are driving at the same thing: give honor and respect as accords with the recipient.  In the end, what Jesus and Paul said in the New Testament were in agreement as to where these commands applied.  Loving God or neighbor does not entail some mystical, esoteric spirituality but are deserving of their due based on who they are; and it is incumbent on you to bestow what is appropriate, when appropriate.

We both know that neither of us is there yet.  We do not keep these consistently, but that does not weaken the obligation.  What improvement that comes in this life does so only as the Holy Spirit works through us using the word of God, or using Paul's words: "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." (Gal 5:16)

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