Sunday, October 18, 2015

The greatest commandment: why forgiveness follows from it

Have you ever thought about what it means that the greatest commandment is love? Think about the disputes that Jesus got into with the Pharisees. In particular, think about all the disputes over the Sabbath. Jesus used the example of how priests sacrifice on the Sabbath. The law of sacrifice and the Sabbath are in conflict every seventh day. If the priests keep the Sabbath exactly as written then they would have to skip the sacrifices; if they perform the temple service then they break the Sabbath. But the temple service is greater than the Sabbath, so the priests perform the temple service and are blameless with regards to the Sabbath.

Or consider the example of circumcision. Under the Old Covenant, every male child must be circumcised on the eighth day. If the eighth day falls on the Sabbath then those two laws are again in conflict. If the child is circumcised on the eighth day the Sabbath is broken; if the Sabbath is kept then the law of circumcision is broken.  The covenant is greater than the Sabbath, so again circumcision is performed even on the Sabbath, and those who perform this service are innocent of breaking the Sabbath. When two laws conflict, the greater commandment is kept.

Now consider that the greatest commitment is to love God, and the second is like it, to love our neighbors.  It follows then that we forgive each other. What is forgiveness except for love being taken into account as greater than our sins?

More could be said about the place of repentance in the heart of the one who acted without love and sinned against his neighbor and so broke God's greatest law in the first place. There is no need for forgiveness unless the law of love was already broken by the one who needs forgiveness. More could be said about the value of the law in teaching us how to love and how to reconcile justice and mercy. (After all, the greater part of mercy is love and respect for the wrongdoer, and the greater part of justice is love and respect for the wronged.) And how can we show the wrongdoer respect without endorsing the evil itself, unless the wrongdoer repents? If the wrongdoer repents in truth, he will lead the way in seeking to make things right for the anyone who was harmed by his actions.

All that said: the commands to love are greater than the other commandments.  So it follows that the true penitent is always met with love. That is why we approach God with confidence. That is why the people that we know should be able to approach us with the same confidence. Once they have abandoned whatever harm they are causing, their welcome will be sure. Because love is greater than their sins.


2 comments:

Martin LaBar said...

Yes, love is greater. Christlike agape love.

Joe Hinman said...

please send me email. I don't have the right computer anymore. send to Metacock@gmail.com