The Law of Love   2 comments

Above:  Flowers, after E. T. Fisher, Circa 1884

Publisher = L. Prang and Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-12135

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For the First Sunday of Advent, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness,

and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life,

in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility;

that in the last day, when he shall come again in his

glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead,

we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth

with thee and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 105

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Isaiah 40:1-11

Psalm 50:1-15

Romans 13:8-14

Luke 1:1-17

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  They exist in balance in the assigned readings.  Mercy on exiles is the promise in Isaiah 40.  That mercy balances judgment on the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, though.  Judgment and mercy also exist in balance in Psalm 50, in its entirely.  The Incarnation, one must realize, was an occasion of both judgment and mercy; rejecting grace leaves one worse off than one was previously.  As for Romans 13:8-14, actions have consequences.  We judge ourselves, do we not?  Or we help our cases.

He who loves his neighbour has met every requirement of the law….Love cannot wrong a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

–Romans 13:8b, 10, The Revised English Bible (1989)

How often have you or I, O reader, treated someone badly or condoned treating someone badly and felt righteous?  Have we not acted contrary to Romans 13:8-10?  Have we not, perhaps, used the letter of the law while violating the letter of the law?  I refer not to “tough love,” academic rigor, et cetera.  No, I refer to callousness.  I refer to that which is inexcusable, certainly in the context of Judeo-Christian ethics.

Yes, some real-life circumstances present moral quandaries.  Whatever decision one makes, at least one innocent person will suffer, perhaps even die.  We live in an imperfect world.  Yet we can, by grace, do the best we can do.  May that suffice.

On other occasions, however, the decisions are easy.  Sometimes loving our neighbors as we love ourselves is clear-cut and places us in no peril.  Thank God for such circumstances!

Yet, sometimes when the moral choice is unambiguous, loving one’s neighbor as one loves oneself places one in physical or legal jeopardy.  This reality pushes back against blind obedience to human authorities sometimes.  In these cases, the higher law (that of God) is the law to follow.  And divine judgment falls on those who perpetuate injustice, as it should.

This Advent and the rest of the year, may we conduct our lives in ways that honor Christ, present in those near, far away, and in places in-between.  May we fulfill the law of God, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF EDWARD KING, BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF FRED B. CRADDOCK, U.S. DISCIPLES OF CHRIST MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND RENOWNED PREACHER

THE FEAST OF GEOFFREY STUDDERT KENNEDY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HAMPDEN GURNEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD, FOUNDER OF THE BROTHERS HOSPITALLERS OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD

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2 responses to “The Law of Love

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  1. So agree with you! Thanks for the inspiration!

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