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As a child I often asked my parents, “Why?” when told to do things. The answer was usually along the lines of, “Because I said so.” Or, if they were in a particularly good mood, they might explain their reasons more fully. But in my youth I did not always understand the reasons they gave and I recall paying the price when I did not follow their “law.”
One of the wonders of EfM is that people make it through the first year. Year one is the study of the Old Testament and involves covering a large amount of material. One of the advantages the study group offers is the experience of those who have gone through this and the help they can provide in fashioning an approach which makes the goal realistic. It is in the first year that a person learns about the covenant God makes with Israel and the impressive number of laws given for the people of Israel to follow. If they keep them God will give them land, make them victorious in battle, dwell among them and be their God.
Now the Israelites did not always follow God’s laws and paid the price time and time again. After looking at the number of laws that were given, I have sympathy for those people. After all, how many times have I intended to do what was right yet my efforts turned out badly, let alone those times when I knowingly wandered astray.
Year two of EfM is the study of the New Testament which was more familiar to me yet still held revelations that help me in understanding my faith. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them…” (Mt 5:17) Then he says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (Jn 13:34) Jesus also gave the two great commandments regarding love of God, of neighbor and of self. It might be asked if love is the fulfillment of the law.
The laws of the Old Testament were quite numerous--there were many acts and circumstances that needed to be addressed. Some of the reasons for the laws were related to preserving health and/or community as well as morality and worship. The people in charge of enforcing the laws were an elite group and were openly challenged by Jesus who called them hypocrites. They tried to entrap him, once confronting Jesus with a woman caught in the act of adultery. They said “In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (Jn 8:5) Jesus replied “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw the stone at her.” (Jn 8:7) Here is Jesus looking with the eyes of love, responding to a group who look with the eyes of the law. The law looks at the act of a person, love looks at the person.
Scripture tells us, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Cor 13:4-8) Could love be the fulfillment of the law? In looking at the above verse, I think so. To formulate a law requires an act that is to be addressed and a “why” it is being addressed. Love needs no “why.”
(all citations New International Version)