Irrelevant. Preachy. Unreliable. BORING.
Ever heard any of the above? Ever believed any of the above?
At one point I thought it was the most boring book EVER. I had an illustrated “comic strip” version as a kid which I thought was ok, but the one without pictures? Pass.
Funnily enough, I actually preferred the Old Testament in my illustrated Bible. At least it had loads of interesting stories full of love, hate, murder, betrayal, battles, triumphs – graphic material, literally. But the New Testament just had that Goody Two Shoes 1 (Jesus) and Goody Two Shoes 2 (Paul) who spent all his time talking about Goody Two Shoes 1.
The one thing I didn’t enjoy about the OT were all the rules. I’m trying to remember how they illustrated the book of Leviticus…maybe they skipped that one. Don’t blame them. Reading Leviticus is one of those “Opposite-of-Bucket-List” items. In fact, I also remember thinking, “Good on you, Jesus, for at least getting rid of the rules.”
Of course, what I didn’t understand at the time was that he didn’t actually “get rid of them”, he fulfilled them. Perfectly. Because we never could. And instead, He gave us one rather ingenious “rule”. It comes in two parts:
Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” (Matthew 22:37-40, MSG)
I say “ingenious” because those 21 words (24 in the good ol’ NIV) encapsulate the entirety of God’s law. Compare that to 859 verses of rigorous, exacting detail in Leviticus that had to be followed to the letter.
Ingenious because those 21 words translate to thousands of ways to show love to thousands of people needing thousands of different things. Maybe it’s a hug. Maybe it’s a ride to the airport. Maybe it’s a gentle word of correction. Maybe it’s silence.
With these words, Jesus brings us, his creation, into the creation process. For at its heart, creation was God’s first act of love towards us. With this commandment, Jesus is commissioning his people to continue this process of love based on God’s example. But he words it in such a way that allows us to use our heart, our mind, our soul, our consciousness to create what that looks like. It’s one rule that can apply to everyone on the earth but look different every time…and still be true.
So yes, ingenious. Remember those other words I started off with? These are the ones that I now apply to the word of God.
Gracious. Freeing. Life giving. Truth.