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Remembering the Law

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another,

for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments,

‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’

and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule:

‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor.

Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law

(Rm 13:8-10).

In our remembering, we’re traveling through the Old Testament and letting our minds rest at milestones along the way. And as we journey toward Easter, we’re letting our hearts rest in the Christ we celebrate this season.

Today’s remembering brings us to the Law. It’s a stop we must take because of its significance in God’s plan.

I don’t know, in our time and locale, that we can fully appreciate all the law represents. But it is to be remembered nonetheless because of its meaning in the foundational formation of the nation from which the Messiah would descend.

The law was intended to be a civil code for the community of God’s people. Hebrew tradition holds that the law is more than commandments. It is all of God's revelation of moral and civil codes and the ceremonial system of external behaviors. It includes all the statutes, precepts, and testimonies held in the entire Pentateuch. These instructions were embraced by the Israelites. They were not considered a list of cold, impertinent rules.

From the Psalms (19 and 119 specifically) it is clear that the law of God was seen as God's gift to impart blessing. It was central to a relationship with God and brought a unique delight to one's life.

However, we do learn from the prophets that it would not be a permanent system. The writer of Hebrews states that the law was but a shadow of good things yet to come (Heb 10:1).

The religious leaders and Pharisees believed man could keep the law, creating even more rules to aid toward that end. Jesus, however, spoke of a righteousness that surpassed the Pharisees. A righteousness from Him, compelled by love. He further taught that the law was not a means to righteousness, because only He is our righteousness.

The teachings of Jesus in the Beatitudes plunged deeper. They dealt with internal motives over external behaviors and ritualistic religious systems. His was a matter of the heart.

One message within the good news of the kingdom is that Jesus came to fulfill the law. Not only did Jesus fulfill the law and set a new pattern (Mt 5:17), He set us free from the condemnation that came by the law.

Paul also taught that the law was good (Rm 7:12) but that it condemns us. The fact that we fall short of keeping the law is what points us to our need for Jesus—for salvation can never be earned.

However, in the spirit of the law is a way we can grow in Christ-like character. But only in union with the Spirit. The Spirit produces the desire, the will, and the ability to live transformed lives. And He produces the fruit of love for our fellowman which fulfills the law (Rm 13:10). To which we are indebted.

The law—handed down in love, followed in love, expressed in love—has been fulfilled in love. The perfect love of Jesus Christ.

Yet another reason to celebrate Him at every remembrance.

Deal with your servant according to your love and teach me your decrees. I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes (Ps 119:124-125).

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