After church today, we were drinking coffee and talking about the Ten Commandments. If you have been following my blogs and snippets of writing, you know (although I haven’t mentioned it for a long time) that I think of sin more as a spiritual sickness than as a moral failing. The Gospel is the remedy to our sickness.
So, since that is lodged firmly in my mind, while we were talking about the Ten Commandments, and I started thinking about Jesus’ statement on the Greatest or Most Important Commandment, I made the point that the Ten Commandments are negative (thou shall not…), while Jesus’ statements about the commandments is positive and proactive (You shall…).
One last piece of information is necessary and then I can pose the question or questions I want to pose. Catholics hold to an idea of Progressive Revelation. This simply means that God did not reveal everything all at once, but that God has revealed information about Himself gradually over time. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the clearest picture of who God is; therefore, those who lived under the Law before the coming of Christ, neither had the clearest picture of God, nor did they have the most complete revelation of God and the Gospel. Those of us who have come after the death and resurrection of Christ have a (let’s say…) more perfect revelation of both who God is and what God has been doing and of course about the Gospel.
So, what does Jesus say about the Law? He says:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second most important commandment is this: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.'” (Mk. 12:30-31)
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus says that these are the two most important commandments. Now just by offering them as the Most Important and the Second Most Important commandments, but as a summary when He is finished stating them. He says: “There is no other commandment more important than these two” (12:31). In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says every other commandment “DEPENDS” on these two commandments. Without these two commandments, there is no “Thou shall not kill” or any other commandment because they are dependent on “Love the Lord your God…, and Love your neighbor…”
So, the question I formulated in my mind and expressed is: “What if the Ten Commandments are more like a list of symptoms, whereas Jesus’ commandments are like the treatment for the disease?”
Jesus had not come yet, so the people did not know that the disease is the disease of “UNLOVE.” The disease of Unlove is evidence by the outbreak of sin, selfishness, self-centeredness, adultery, murder, lying, coveting, conniving, idolatry, using the Lord’s name inappropriately, not honoring the Sabbath, and not honoring parents and legal authorities. From the time of Moses until Jesus, the people did not yet have the revelation that told them what the disease was. They only knew that they suffered the spiritual sickness of sin. They had not learned that sin is UNLOVE. But when Jesus came, he told us the disease and the treatment: the disease is UNLOVE; the treatment is LOVE; if the treatment is not working, increase the dosage.
This is confirmed in the Church by Saint Paul who says:
“The only obligation you have is to love one another. Whoever does this has obeyed the Law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery; do not commit murder; do not steal; do not desire what belongs to someone else” – all these, and any others besides, are summed up in the one command, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” If you love others, you will never do them wrong; to love, then, is to obey the whole Law.” (Romans 13:8-10). “For the whole Law is summed up in one commandment: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Galatians 5:14).
And James tells us that:
“You will be doing the right thing if you obey the law of the Kingdom, which is found in the scripture, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (James 2:8)
And our Lord says in the Gospel reading today:
“”If you love me, you will obey my commandments” (John 14:15, 21).
And what is His commandment?
“My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you” (John 15:12).
“What he commands is that we believe in his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as Christ commanded us. (1 John 3:23).
“The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also” (1 John 4:21).
So, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law because Jesus reveals the true nature of our spiritual sickness and tells us how to treat is. Our illness is Unlove, and if we treat it with Love, we can arrest the disease, send it into remission, and no longer have to spend all our time treating the individual symptoms that manifest as a result of the disease.
God is love, and you were created in the image of love. Sin has twisted and perverted that love so that it has become a “self-love” which is a contradiction of true love because true love is always directed at another. By overcoming sin, Jesus, the Son of Love, has made it possible for us to love as we are intended to love. The fact that we do not is evidence that all of us at times prefer the illness over the cure.
Perhaps too, we in the church should expect those new to the faith to pass through the documented stages of grief in learning about their condition. Many are in denial. Some get angry. Some are depressed. Others become fearful. Some others move to bargaining. But if they make it through all of that, they can learn to accept it, and treat it.
The moral of the story is that if you treat the disease, the symptoms will eventually vanish. Unlove is the disease, the symptoms are listed in the Ten Commandments. Love is the remedy. It is the commandment of Christ. If we love Christ, we will keep His commandments to love others.