Day 32: Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Lent
The whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
It is worth pausing for a while over this saying. Read it quickly, and it seems something like “all you have to do is love your neighbor.” The rich and complex legal code of the scriptures is shelved for a quick and easy microwave dinner. But it’s not so simple.
We are not giving up ten commandments for one; we are recognizing that the ten are all part of the one. Indeed not only the ten, but all 613 of the laws, testimonies and decrees are part of the one. The 613 haven’t been shoved aside; they bear witness to what love looks like.
Love of neighbor doesn’t kill – that’s easy enough. Or steal – that’s straightforward, too. But Jesus has said that not killing means not giving in to anger, or calling another “fool”. And if all people are neighbor, then hate for enemies must be turned into love. Not stealing is far more than prohibiting the smash and grab. If “You shall not steal” is about love of neighbor, then it forbids the multitude of marketplace practices that take advantage of others (like claiming something is half-off because you doubled the price, or obscuring fees and penalties in the fine print, or plundering the data of unwitting Facebook friends), as well as all the ordinary “finders keepers” routine that excuses keeping the change when you were given too much.
The legal code is a lot easier without the command to love your neighbor as yourself. It makes it easier to bend, dodge and manipulate the rules – a talent we humans have in abundance. We have heard too many people excuse the inexcusable by saying they acted within the law. Maybe. But it’s not love of neighbor. It is not our baptismal calling. It is not the life of the Spirit.
in the waters of baptism you sent us forth as your witnesses.
Help us live your grace and compassion
to all you bring near us today.
– A prayer for the fifth week of Lent