Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Self-Focused Man Will Never Understand God's Law

Hi there. Yes, you. You who look at your faith as a journey, the story of your coming to Christ. That great and wonderful play...

You will never understand God's Law.

Why do I say that? Why am I so brazen and bold?

Because it's true.

You see, the Law... it's not about making you a better person. It's not a guide to how you can improve yourself. It's not the secret decoder ring that lets you show God how much you really, really love Him.

See, all those things -- those are focused upon yourself.

Now, hear the Word of the Lord.

"“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.” -- Matthew 22:37-40

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." - John 13:34

The Law is this -- Love. Love God, love your neighbor. Oh, and by the by - the way that you love God is you love your neighbor - "Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’" - Matthew 25:45

The Law always points you towards serving and caring for your neighbor. If you are not shown your neighbor when you consider the Law... you aren't looking at God's Law. If you have something you think is a precept... and it doesn't instruct you to or guide you in caring for your neighhbor... it's not God's Law... or if it is, you're missing the point.

We were created to be servants. Love your neighbor.

You tell me that X is right or Y is wrong... tell me how it loves my neighbor, tell me how it harms them. Otherwise, I don't care about your quest for self perfection - it doesn't interest me in the slightest.

Love your neighbor -- that's where it is all at, that's where everything rests. And if you aren't talking about the neighbor, your law talk is... well... it isn't God's Law as He would have it applied.


Mary Jack said...

You had me for most of your post. But I will tell you that X is right and that it is not primarily about loving my neighbor. Nor does it have anything to do with personal perfection. "Do this in remembrance for me." There are laws related to God that do not explicitly relate to the neighbor.

By all means, people should boast about themselves a lot less & turn their attention to others. But there is law talk about God's Law that pertains even to those who cannot serve (ie. in a coma). God's Word still speaks regardless and I daresay we wouldn't say God's Word excludes the Law.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Ah, Mary - you didn't follow through.

What do we pray after the Supper? That it would strengthen our faith in God and our... fervent love for one another. The Sacrament gives forgiveness of sins... and then also life -- and true life is always focused on loving the neighbor. =o)

Always moves towards the neighbor.

+ + + + + +

And what Law am I to be preaching to the fellow in the Coma? They serve their neighbor by being an object of service. =o)

Mary Jack said...

I figured you would counter that way. Again I agree with your overarching point, but you made a statement that isn't entirely true. There can and is law that is about us & God and not us & neighbor. That us & God affects us & neighbor is absolutely true, but I am really hesitant about saying "if you aren't talking about the neighbor . . . it isn't God's Law as He would have it applied."

We are to go to church (for example), and that certainly does affect others (in our household, in our congregation, etc), but we needn't prescribe that we are to go to church as though it is only for our neighbors. Doing so clouds other issues.

We are to confess our sins. Yes, that can impact our neighbor, but that doesn't mean that's the point of confession and absolution.

I agree with you but I don't want your post to go too far. I would prefer to say life always moves toward the neighbor instead of Law.

Btw, do you have a copy of my book yet? Cuz I'm happy to give you one Friday at the convention. I'll have a booth Friday-only selling.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I'll have to get one and a signature!

But I still would hestitate to limit things that impact me and my spirituality to myself. I exist not for myself, but for my neighbor -- I am created in Christ Jesus for good works... the vine is in the branch and fruit is born.

This goes back to Genesis -- over and over we hear "and it was good, and it was good" - until we hear "it was not good that the man was alone." We are communal beings, made by God to serve each other... and everything funnels towards that. The point of my life is never me -- the point of my life is always my neighbor - whether I am actively serving them or providing them an occasion for good works by having them serve me.

This is the point Luther is making when he notes that where there is forgiveness of sins there is always life and salvation... and life always involves the neighbor. Where there is the vertical relationship, there is always going to be the horizontal... the second great command is like unto the first, and you cannot have just the first without the second.

Mary Jack said...

There is the "for you" of the Gospel. And it truly is "for you" and not "for you so that your neighbor. . ."

Now you should counter: But there IS "for you BECAUSE of your neighbor, that neighbor being Christ." You could then refer to Christ hidden in our other neighbors. It's all connected! And I'd be with you. But salvation is "for you" while love & dominion are "for your neighbor." There is a distinction and I think a good one.

YES to the "like unto"! What I am saying is there are still TWO commands, one between us & God (which, yes, also affects others) and one between us & others.

You said, "I still would hesitate to limit things that impact me and my spirituality to myself." I'm with you. But there are two tables of law. Right? Our God is a jealous God for Himself and for His people. Right?

I've been musing on the nature of the law and its reception. :) So please pardon me if I'm being overly-something.

Myrtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Myrtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Myrtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rev. Eric J Brown said...


What I would say is this -- you cannot view your relationship with God outside this fundamental truth -- He is your Creator. As such, your relationship is defined by what He has created you to be... and He has created to you to be one who loves her neighbor.

Think of it this way -- what would it mean to speak about me being a husband, but not talking about how I relate to my wife. It would be nonsensical -- to be a husband is to be one who has a wife. Likewise, to be creature of God is to be one who was created to serve. To be a child of God is to be one who is related to the family of God. To be a member of the Body of Christ is to be related to other members.

Or as our Lord would have us pray - "Our Father". Everything is communal -- we are part of the people of God. Wherever 2 or three are gathered - because we are communal.

And what this means is that whenever there is a didactic, instructive aspect to the Law, it directs us to our function as people - to love and serve the neighbor. =o)

Or think about Luther from Freedom of a Christian -- who I am... I am a perfectly dutiful servant of all in Christ. That's my identity -- if I try to think about who I am in Christ without recognizing that I am a servant I'll always miss the point.