Skip to comments.Godís Law is Personal and Loving [Ecumenical]
Posted on 02/10/2015 6:30:25 AM PST by Salvation
When we speak of God’s law, there is a danger that we might think of it as we think of any secular law. We usually think of secular law merely as a sort of impersonal code written by nameless legislators or bureaucrats. We have not met them; we do not know them or necessarily love or trust them. In effect, they are an abstraction in our mind called “the government,” or “the man,” or just “they,” as in, “They don’t want you to park here” or “They’ll arrest you for that.”
But God’s Law is personal. When it comes to God’s Law we are dealing with something quite different, something very personal (if we have faith). For God’s law is not given by someone we do not know, love, or trust. If we have faith, God is someone we do in fact know, someone we love and trust. Further, we believe that He loves us and wants what is best for us.
God’s law is not the equivalent of a no-parking sign hung by some nameless, faceless government. Rather, it is a personal exhortation, an instruction and command given by someone we know and who knows and loves us.
Consider an example. Suppose you pull in front of my church to park and you see a no-parking sign. Now suppose further that you decide to ignore it. All right, you have broken a law, not a big one, but a law nonetheless. You’ve chosen to ignore a sign put there by “the government.” But consider another scenario: I, your beloved blogger and the pastor of the Church you are attending or visiting, is standing out there by the curb and I say to you, “Please don’t park here.” Now the situation is very different. I, someone you know and love, , am personally requesting that you leave the space open for some reason.
An old rabbinic saying makes this same point:
You want to know why so many of God’s laws end by saying “I am the Lord”? I will tell you! When God says, “I am the Lord,” he is saying, “Now look, I am the one who fished you out of the mud, so come over here and listen to me.”
When you experience the law in this personal way, you are far more likely to follow it, because someone you know and trust is asking and directing you. But what if, despite this, you still choose to ignore the instruction not to park there. Well then, the situation is quite different, because in this case, the law is personal. The refusal to follow it now becomes personal and it is a far more serious situation.
Here are two examples of the “I am the Lord” sayings in Scripture:
“You shall not defraud or rob your neighbor.
You shall not withhold overnight the wages of your day laborer.
You shall not curse the deaf,
or put a stumbling block in front of the blind,
but you shall fear your God.
I am the LORD.
“You shall not act dishonestly in rendering judgment.
Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty,
but judge your fellow men justly.
You shall not go about spreading slander among your kin;
nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake.
I am the LORD (Lev 19:11-14).
Note how the litanies of the law each end with, “I am the Lord.” (These are but two of many litanies.) On the one hand it gives solemnity to the pronouncement. But on another level, God is saying, “This is Me talking. It is I who speak to you, I who created you, led you out of slavery, parted the Red Sea for you, dispatched your enemies, fed you in the desert, and gave you drink from the rock. It I, I who love you, I who care for you, I who have given you everything you have, I who want what is best for you, I who have earned your trust. It is I, your Father, speaking to you and giving you this command.”
God’s law is personal. Do we see and experience it this way? This will happen only if we come to know the Lord personally. Otherwise, the danger is that we see the Law of God as merely an impersonal code, an abstract set of rules to follow. They might as well have been issued by the deity, the godhead, or even just the religious leaders of the day.
Hence a gift to pray for in terms of keeping God’s Law, is a closer walk with the Lord and an experience of His love for us. Such an experience is a great help in loving the Law of the Lord. For when we love the Lord, we love His law, seeing it not as an imposition, but as a personal code of love that is meant to protect us. And when we offend against it, either willfully or through weakness, we are able to repent with a more perfect contrition, for we understand that we have offended someone we love and who is deserving of all our love.
Abba – St. Paul indicates that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is that we are able to experience God as Abba. Abba is the Hebrew and Aramaic family word for father. It is translated by some as “Papa,” or “Dad.” But regardless of how it is translated, it indicates a deep love and tender affection for the Father. He is not merely “the Father” in some abstract or merely titular sense. He is someone I experience as my own dear Father, as someone who loves me. It is a personal and family relationship that the Holy Spirit wants to grant us.
This personal relationship brings God’s law alive, makes it personal. And so God says, as He reminds of of His Law, “I am the Lord. This is me talking. It is I, the one who loves you.”
I might add that we also need to experience this with regard to the Church. Many see the Church in an impersonal way, as an institution. But the real gift is to see the Church as Christ’s beloved bride and our Mother. In this sense, we love the Church and grow daily in affection for her, not seeing her “rules” as impersonal, but rather as the guidance and direction of a loving mother.
In this video, Fr. Francis Martin beautifully describes the gift of loving the Father with deep affection:
Ecumenical threads are closed to antagonism.
To antagonize is to incur or to provoke hostility in others.
Unlike the “caucus” threads, the article and reply posts of an “ecumenical” thread may discuss more than one belief, but antagonism is not tolerable.
More leeway is granted to what is acceptable in the text of the article than to the reply posts. For example, the term “gross error” in an article will not prevent an ecumenical discussion, but a poster should not use that term in his reply because it is antagonistic. As another example, the article might be a passage from the Bible which would be antagonistic to Jews. The passage should be considered historical information and a legitimate subject for an ecumenical discussion. The reply posts however must not be antagonistic.
Contrasting of beliefs or even criticisms can be made without provoking hostilities. But when in doubt, only post what you are “for” and not what you are “against.” Or ask questions.
Ecumenical threads will be moderated on a “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” basis. When hostility has broken out on an “ecumenical” thread, I’ll be looking for the source.
Therefore “anti” posters must not try to finesse the guidelines by asking loaded questions, using inflammatory taglines, gratuitous quote mining or trying to slip in an “anti” or “ex” article under the color of the “ecumenical” tag.
And here is the source of those rules -- check it yourselves -- Religion Moderator's Guidelines to Caucus/Prayer/Ecumenical threads
But Gods Law is personal. When it comes to Gods Law we are dealing with something quite different, something very personal (if we have faith). For Gods law is not given by someone we do not know, love, or trust. If we have faith, God is someone we do in fact know, someone we love and trust. Further, we believe that He loves us and wants what is best for us. Gods law is not the equivalent of a no-parking sign hung by some nameless, faceless government. Rather, it is a personal exhortation, an instruction and command given by someone we know and who knows and loves us.
Is God's Law composed of written scripture, or a mix of written scripture and oral tradition?
Monsignor Pope Ping!
See #1 Rules:
Therefore anti posters must not try to finesse the guidelines by asking loaded questions, using inflammatory taglines, gratuitous quote mining or trying to slip in an anti or ex article under the color of the ecumenical tag.
Are you suggesting that I'm an "anti" poster? That's not very ecumenical of you.
This is an odd statement since the number of times is countless that Catholics have mocked Protestants for claiming we have a personal relationship with God...
So this is a positive post...Perhaps Catholics will delve into the scriptures to learn how to have a personal relationship with the Lord...
Thank you so much for this thread, this topic. Msgr. Pope has a gift of explaining aspects of our Christian faith so well. This topic is something that I have been thinking about a lot lately: the law of the Lord. We often pray with the Psalmist, expressing our love for His law: Psalm 19
7 The Law of Yahweh is perfect, refreshment to the soul; the decree of Yahweh is trustworthy, wisdom for the simple.
8 The precepts of Yahweh are honest, joy for the heart; the commandment of Yahweh is pure, light for the eyes.
9 The fear of Yahweh is pure, lasting for ever; the judgements of Yahweh are true, upright, every one,
10 more desirable than gold, even than the finest gold; his words are sweeter than honey, that drips from the comb.
11 Thus your servant is formed by them; observing them brings great reward. (New Jerusalem Bible)
In Mark 12:2831, we see Jesus being asked, Which commandment is the most important of all? Jesus answered, The most important is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.
And yet all the LAW that comes from God is Good, particularly His Son, Jesus who is the fulfillment of the law. Jesus came to us out of the love and mercy that God has for us to save us and redeem us from sin. We know a lot of this...but I think Msgr. Pope has touched on something wonderful in that the law (natural law and all the law revealed by God) is all connected to His desire to help us and it all works together FOR us. And YES to Msgr. Pope’s point that the law is also personal. I have been thinking that all His law, even the natural law, laws of physics, math...all of it is so designed by our God that it all works FOR our GOOD when we accept, love, and follow HIM. I also think that heaven will most definitely NOT be boring and we will spend eternity discovering more and more about how this all works...the law, natural, physical, spiritual law to enhance the the workings of good in all of us as we become more and more united with this great Trinity, the Supreme Unity. We have much to continue to discover because God is infinite and there is much more to learn about our God. We will learn forever...difficult for our tiny little finite minds to take in ...but pretty amazing and very personal for all of us.
For the Psalmist it had begun to become personal...which explains why the Psalmist so loved the law of the Lord.
One of the keys to good ecumenism is honesty. ;-)
And I should add that this would mean honesty of action and motive.
**So this is a positive post**
It’s wonderful to see that you are rejoicing so heartily upon pondering the law of the Lord. ;-D
Alex, can’t you put aside our differences for just a moment to focus on God’s love for all of us?
I was just reading 1 John 4:17-21.
7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.
14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.
16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
19 We love him, because he first loved us.
20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
May the peace and love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you, brother Alex.
I'm going to try to follow this, and if I happen to fall short, I hope my intentions will nevertheless be clear.
I think the Msgr. is on to something, that God gave the Law out of love rather than spite or authoritarianism.
But then there is John 1:17: "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (ESV)
Law is opposed to grace, as Luther put it:
For God speaks through the law, saying, Do this, avoid that, this is what I expect of you. The gospel, however, does not preach what we are to do or to avoid. It sets up no requirements but reverses the approach of the law, does the very opposite, and says, This is what God has done for you; he has let his Son be made flesh for you, has let him be put to death for your sake.(LW 35:162)
There is nothing in that passage with which the Msgr. would disagree, I think.
But that isn't all that the verse says. It says that grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. It is not simply that the law and grace come from separate mouthpieces, but that the law and truth come from separate mouthpieces. Except that Jesus Himself said that His teachings were, not an abolishment of the Law, but the fulfillment of the Law: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." (Matt. 5:17 ESV)
If the Law is not truth, then the Law would be abolished by the advent of the truth, who is Jesus (John 14:6); but if the Law is truth and only needs fulfillment in Jesus, then the function of the Law would be what Paul asserts, a schoolteacher pointing us to the truth (Gal. 3:24), which is the Gospel of grace from God by faith from God in the cross of Christ and His resurrection (Eph. 2:8).
So the Law is a gift from a loving God, but it is a gift He wishes us to outgrow, the way a schoolchild outgrows the basic lessons--not by abolishing them, but by no longer having to return to them, because they are implanted (Jer. 31:33, Heb. 10:16), the way I no longer have to, e.g., recite arithmetic tables, because the truth of 1+1=2 is implanted in me.
It is to our shame that we can never fully reach this condition in this life. Peter points this out in a roundabout way in II Peter 1:5-7, where he replaces Aristotle's ladder of enkrateia leading to sophrosyne, the ability to do what is right without thinking, with a ladder of enkrateia (translated "temperance" or "self-control") leading to eusebeia, translated "Godliness" but literally "good worship"--or to put it another way, to step forward from trying to fix it ourselves ("self control"), which is how one responds to a law, into laying ourselves at the feet of Christ and worshipping Him, wherein He continuously transforms us into a reflection of Him that the world can see--the end result of which is, going back to Peter's ladder, Philadelphia or kindness towards each other, and agape, where we fully reflect God, who is agape.
And that is a lot more than I intended to type :-) except that it brings us to the essential difference between the Catholic and the Lutheran approaches to the Law. The Msgr. would at some point assert that there is something, some work that we must do in order to fulfill the Law in us--and in this, oddly enough, he would be joined by the Methodists, Baptists, and Pentecostals, who differ only on what that work must be, whether it be the work of sanctification for the Wesleyans, or the work of faith for the Baptists, or the work of receiving the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues for the Pentecostals. Luther would say that only God can do for us what man has demonstrated through the Law that we cannot do for ourselves, and that our only effective response is to recognize that our attempts at fulfilling the Law through our own self-control lead us inevitably to the eu-sebeia, the good worship, that lays us before Christ and lets Him transform us--which, ironically enough, includes our sanctification, and our obtaining faith, and receiving the Holy Spirit--perhaps even (and don't tell my fellow Lutherans I said this) speaking in tongues as a gift of the Spirit.
OK, one more thing. If I read the Msgr.'s writings correctly, along with those of Pope Benedict and Mother Teresa, Catholic practice comes close to this idea of transformation through worship rather than works, in the adoration of the Eucharist. My concern relating to this would be that to adore Christ's Body and Blood is to distort Christ, to make an idol of a part of Him rather than worshipping the whole of Him; His Body and Blood is a gift to me, for which I am eternally grateful, but one is thankful for a gift and adores the giver, not thankful for the giver and adoring the gift. (I learned this, oddly enough, in my years of practice of the Japanese tea ceremony, but I've already written too much to go down that road here.)
That may be pilpul, but it was your own Chesterton who wrote in Orthodoxy about "the monstrous wars about small points of theology, the earthquake of emotion about a gesture or a word. It was only a matter of an inch; but an inch is everything when you are balancing." And balancing Law and Gospel is the most difficult balancing that the church must perpetually maintain.
Thank you for all the quotes on love.
"Put aside our differences"? I posted a question. Are questions not ecumenical enough?
Then allow me to propose a response to your question.
Question: Is God’s Law composed of written scripture, or a mix of written scripture and oral tradition?
Response: There are some on this thread who follow Sola Scripture, and there are others who follow scripture and oral tradition. Let us set aside those differences for just a moment and together focus on God’s love for all of us.
That's a nice sentiment, but that's not the topic of the thread. So let me ask the question again, worded a little differently:
Does Msgr. Charles Pope, of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, believe that Gods Old Testament Law is comprised entirely of written scripture, or is comprised in part of written scripture and part of oral tradition?
Q: Does Msgr. Charles Pope, of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, believe that Gods Old Testament Law is comprised entirely of written scripture, or is comprised in part of written scripture and part of oral tradition?
A: I will leave it for you to ponder what Msgr. Pope’s beliefs are concerning God’s Old Testament Law. For myself, I will reflect on how keeping God’s law can lead us into a closer walk with God and a greater experience of His love for us.