Monday, September 08, 2014

A Thought

“This day the Lord your God commands you to observe these statutes and judgments; therefore you shall be careful to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.  Today you have proclaimed the Lord to be your God, and that you will walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments, and His judgments, and that you will obey His voice”  (Deuteronomy 26:16-17).

Sometimes it seems Christianity is more concerned with which “laws” are not worthy of our time or attention, and which “laws” are the really important ones.  Many classes and discussions I have been a part of have too often centered on this very conflict especially when it comes to the social “hot button” issues of our day.  The Jewish culture, however, does not seem to wrestle with which ones are “important” and which ones no longer merit serious attention (the absence of the Temple dictates which can even be fulfilled).

To “fulfill” a commandment, however, goes beyond being strictly “legal”.  Rabbi Jeremy Simons is director of Rabbinic Services at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson MS; and he writes: “These commandments existed to bring holiness to the utterly mundane tasks of life. Cooking a meal, putting on a shirt, even building an outhouse all became holy tasks. Throughout the day, dozens of actions reminded the Israelite of his or her connection to God. Seeing commandments as blessings rather than obligations motivated the rabbis of later generations to create countless more of them. Ultimately Jewish law had guidelines on how one ties his shoes in the morning.

The rabbi points out that even in going overboard on more rigid regulations governing virtually every facet of daily living, the purpose has never been about being strictly legal (although the Pharisees in the Gospels seem to suggest otherwise!).  The overriding purpose has been toward staying connected to The Lord in daily living, in even the most mundane tasks.  We Christians have our daily devotionals, but too often we give that little bit of time to The Lord and then go about our business – often forgetting that devotional time and the lesson which may have come from it.  Talk about being “legalistic”!  We satisfy our sense of righteousness and/or obligation by devoting a fraction of our day to The Lord and His Scriptures, but we rarely take those lessons with us to work and see no problem with it.  We have “fulfilled” a holy obligation!

What Christians can (and should) do well to learn from Judaism is that these “statutes” and “commandments” and “judgments” are not about fulfilling some legal obligation, being “holier than thou”, or stifling independent thought; they are entirely about staying connected with our One, Only, True, and Living Source of Life itself, leaving no portion of our lives untouched by The Lord.  In this we are constantly being reminded of the great care our Lord has taken to teach us, just as a loving parent teaches their children.

We are called to obedience, of course, but serious prayer and study of the Scriptures also teaches us why we should pursue obedience.  It is always about Divine Love, but we will not know what Divine Love really means unless or until we are fully engaged in and with The Lord.

Obedience is not being unduly burdened; it is being fully loved.



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