As a kid I was always a little afraid of the Ten Commandments. They seemed so grave, so foreboding, so be-all-and-end-all. In my mind I imagined the Ten Commandments to look a bit like tombstones, carved into great slabs of granite, hanging ominously over my head and haunting me with the threat of eternal damnation if I dared cross the line.
I understood the Ten Commandments as a form of punishment: You will do THIS and THIS and THIS…or else. I missed the point entirely. I didn’t see the laws as God intended – as a means to guide and teach me; as a ten-step program, so to speak, intended to help me live in the most kind and loving way possible.
Many years later Jesus finally set me straight when he succinctly summed up all Ten Commandments into two concise statements. “Love God with all your heart, soul and mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love, Jesus said. The aim of all Ten Commandments is to help us to love.
I like that, don’t you? It sounds so simple, so easy: Love God, love your neighbor, the end. We don’t have to follow a whole long list of rules and laws. Those rules and laws take care of themselves if we do one thing right: if we love well.
All we have to do is love. How easy is that?
Turns out, not so easy.
If you’re anything like me, you end up loving a whole lot of other things in your life more than you love God and more than you love your neighbor.
We love our jobs. Our salaries. Our houses. Our cars. Our bodies. We love feeling important, successful, smart, pretty, witty.
And as for loving our neighbors? Yeah, we know how that goes in real-life.
We know how well we love our neighbor when he gets the promotion we desired for ourselves. We know how well we love our neighbor when we gossip behind her back. We know how well we love our neighbor when he doesn’t look like us, or think like us, or share the same political/religious/social beliefs we do.
The truth is, it’s not the law that’s flawed. It’s us. We don’t always love well. And sometimes? Sometimes we fail to love at all.
Which is why we need Jesus. Jesus came to love us and to love well for us. He didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it – to fulfill it where we fall far short.
Jesus came to fill the gap with his love, a gap left wide and gaping by us. His love completes the law utterly and completely, because Jesus himself is love.
“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” (Matthew 5:17)