The Law of Love


            At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath.  And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat them.  And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “See, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”

            But he said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him:  how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?  Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?  Yet I say to you that in this place there is one greater than the temple.  But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you wouldn’t have condemned the guiltless.  For the ‘Son of man’ is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mathew 12: 1-8.)


            In the Old Testament God gave a commandment that read, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it Holy.”  God intended one day of the week be for rest; a day on which no work was to be done.  There were very few restrictions and limitations placed upon the activities of the day; God forbid plowing or harvesting, carrying heavy loads, or engaging in excessive travel.  The religious leaders, who were overzealous, created more detailed definitions of what constituted work, and expected others to adhere to these limitations (although God had not sanctioned them.)  They made a day of rest in to a day of restrictions.  Jesus made reference to an occasion when King David was fleeing from King Saul who sought to take his life.  David and his companions, wearied and hungry, entered a temple and ate the sacred bread from the altar.  David was justified by God in doing this, because he was God’s anointed king, and he was hungry.  Jesus also made reference to the priest’s violations of the Sabbath day.  The priests were allowed to break the Sabbath rest while serving God who dwelled in the temple.  (Serving God was then made a justifiable violation of the Sabbath.)  The Jews believed the temple to be Holy, and they revered it.  The only thing they reverenced more than the temple was God himself.  So when Jesus said, “Yet I say to you that in this place there is one greater than the temple” he was making himself to be God; he even went so far as to proclaim himself ‘Lord of the Sabbath,’ meaning he did not have to obey the Sabbath, but the Sabbath obeyed him; the laws served God’s purposes, and now they were serving Jesus as well.  He then quoted a scripture that overturned the Pharisees entire understanding of the priorities of God; he said, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”

The most important characteristic of God was his capacity to forgive and show mercy.  The priority wasn’t what man could do for God, but what God had done (and was going to do on the cross) for man.  The heart of God was not a rigid thing that demanded complete obedience to avoid hellfire; rather, forgiveness was God’s preferred method of fellowshipping and relating to his children.  God dwells in the hearts of those who accept his mercy in the form of Jesus Christ.  The presence of God dwelling in you dispels guilt, and those who are walking with Jesus Christ are no longer under the harsh restrictions that cause people to trust in themselves rather than in God.  Mercy has replaced sacrifice.  “There is therefore now, no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the spirit.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8: 1-2.)

            One day as I was traveling down the road, I came across a stranger that had fallen on the bike path.  I pulled over and picked him up.  He appeared to be mentally handicapped and had taken quite a fall.  The palms of his hands were badly skinned from his attempt to avoid colliding with the pavement.  We picked up some peroxide and bandages, and drove to a place where I could treat his wounds.  When we got in to the car, his hands were so bloody and the distance to go was so short, I recommended he not put on his safety belt, which would have been painful for him.  We made it to our destination, but not before a Police Officer noticed a broken tail-light on my vehicle, and a passenger not wearing his seatbelt.  As the officer came near to the car, he inquired about the seat-belt, and the young man showed him his damaged hands.  The officer was lenient; he could see that circumstances didn’t warrant putting on the belt.  Some place in his heart he knew it wouldn’t have been right to give me a ticket because a law was broken out of love and concern.  He overlooked the tail-light saying, “Just take care of your friend.”

            Today, there can be a tendency to focus on the wrong things.  Those who don’t know God will have a difficult time adhering to his statutes.  They have no conviction, they don’t have the Holy Spirit, and their minds have been darkened.  Placing rules between sinners and God is therefore unbeneficial.  Can you imagine going to a church and being met at the door with a ‘questionnaire designed to assess your level of holiness prior to entering.’  Jesus came to make fellowship with God the first stage in a transformed life, not the final stage.  There is an old saying, “First you catch the fish and then you clean it.”  In the Old Testament, the fish had to be cleaned first.  In the New Testament, the fish is made clean because it has been caught.  Rituals, rules, and cleansings were all replaced with the Blood of Jesus Christ.  The point of contact with any sinner then, is not adherence to the rules, but an experience with Jesus Christ.  This does not mean that God wants us to throw away His commandments and not adhere to His guidelines.  It pleases Him when we do His will and obey Him.  But love for others is the trump card.  The law of love is the only law.  And the first step in obeying that law is knowing Jesus Christ.  It is because he dwells in us, that we are able to submit our lives with joy, to serving God, and others, in love.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, we ask and pray that You help us to make Your mercy the first thing we present to others.  Help us to not place rules and regulations between Your message and those who need to hear it.  God, give us strength to serve You, and walk with You.  Fill us with love, and faith, and peace, and joy; that others might see who You truly are.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

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