Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Two Great Commandments of the Law

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
There are three accounts in the scripture of someone asking Christ what the great commandment in the law of Moses was.  Christ cited the first in response, and declared that the second was just like it.
Leviticus 19:18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.
Upon these two commandments, said the Savior to the lawyer who was testing him by the question, hang all the law and the prophets.

Love is both an emotion, meaning a feeling which motivates us to do stuff, and it is also a rule of behavior - the rule that when followed produces the stuff the feeling incentivizes us to do.  As love is in the power of the architect of the human heart, even God, to bestow, I don't concern myself with telling people to "just love one another and all is well!"  One may as well tell someone who doesn't know how to swim and is drowning in deep water: "Just stop drowning!  Swim better!  No, not like that!  Breathe air, not water!  Well, at least the sharks will get a nice meal...."

The primary effect and outcome of love is that we reconcile all conflicts in favor of the other.  To love God with all our heart, soul, and might, therefore, means to reconcile every conflict between us and God in God's favor.  If he asks us to do something we don't wanna do, we do it anyways.  Our own purposes, goals, plans, desires, whatever, take second place to our executing the least of God's commands or requests.  Also, we seek to advance God's purposes, so we teach his commandments, and not our own precepts nor doctrines, without fearing what men can do to us.  And we accept all that it pleases God to inflict upon us, without trying to avoid it.

To love our neighbor as ourself means, in practical terms, if we would do a thing for ourselves, we had ought to do that thing for others.  And, more - it means we do not withhold our substance from others, but give on request, and let those who take from us have what they sought without us trying to get it back.  This means, among other things, we do not build up stores of goods nor food nor money, because by doing that, we are withholding substance from others and taking more than we have need of; we exhibit covetousness thereby, demonstrating that we break the tenth commandment (at the very least).  Of course we reconcile conflicts in their favor, granting their requests as we grant our own, praying for our enemies, our abusers and our spiteful users, that thereby we ourselves may not be their enemy, but that instead we may be filled with love, that our duty to serve them seem not so onerous to us; we suffer their abuse and return good for evil, just as a loving parent would absorb the unthinking and unheeding blows of a two-year-old pitching a tantrum.  Just as we wish someone would seek us out when we are in trouble and trial and see to our needs or redeem us from bondage, so also we had ought to seek out others and see to their needs and redeem them from bondage as well, by paying their debts and their bills.  And, of course, we forgive everyone of all debts and transgressions against us, just as we do not hold ourselves as indebted to ourselves.