You’ve heard of #100HappyDays? Well, I stole the idea and adapted to fit my blogging schedule.
Every day is filled with reasons to be thankful. And yet the majority of my day isn’t spent being thankful. That’s got to change. God sent his son to save me - HUGE reason to always be thankful. And I’ve been freed to live a new life through Christ, released from fear, doubt, shame and self-reliance, equipped with love to serve others and blessed with all kinds of daily tasks and jobs to express my love. And that’s just the big stuff.
This is #100ThankfulWeeks to praise Him. I’m sharing one simple thing I’m thankful for each week. Because there can never be to much thankfulness.
Week 43: Law
“This is what happens when you follow the letter of the law instead of the intent of the law,” I say.
My other half lets out a little sigh. “I get that,” he says. Because it’s a phrase I use a lot and a lot of conversations seem to crescendo with this phrase.
“It’s the same problem we have with immigration and gun reform,” I press on. Because I’m fired up and someone is listening to me. “The letter of the law says everyone gets a gun and we should deport all illegals. But it completely misses the intent.”
“Ummmm hmmmm,” my other half agrees, with exaggerated patience. “But not everyone sees the intent the same way. Gun-enthusiasts are going to see a different intent than gun reformers. That’s why the courts are there to determine the intent of the law.”
I could stop to point out that his opinion on the purpose of the courts isn’t universally shared by everyone. But I’m on a roll so I don’t stop to quibble. “I agree with you,” I say, doggedly redirecting the conversation. “But the whole reason the courts have to define what the intent of the law is is because people don’t follow the intent and instead try to find loopholes in the letter of the law to get their own way.”
“Except,” my other half says and pauses. He waits for me to fully commit to listening to him. “Not everybody sees the law the same way. So even if everyone followed what they saw as the intent of the law, the courts would still have to define what the intent is.”
“Okay,” I say, quickly revving up my next favorite topic. “I get that the intent of individual laws could potentially be viewed differently by different people. But what about the greater intent behind all laws?”
“Well, if you’re going to go there...” My other half rolls his eyes. Because he already knows where the conversation is going. It’s where just about every deep conversation ends up going.
“I’m serious,” I persist. “Why do we have laws? Isn’t the intent of every law to protect us and to promote justice?”
He tilts his head and shrugs. “Sure, Mark. If you want to be that simplistic.”
But that’s the point. Laws, and how we understand laws, can be simple. Individual civil, moral and religious laws may define specific things we can and cannot do. But there’s a greater law that sheds light on the intent of all these other laws. It’s the law of love.
In fact, without love, it’s impossible to follow or even understand the intent of any other law. Love is the key. Love teaches us to go beyond the letter and embrace the intent. And the intent may change depending on the circumstances. Because unlike other laws, the law of love is applicable to every circumstance.
Without love — if we even bother with following laws — we look for loopholes in the letter of the law. And that’s the problem with trying to regulate human behavior with laws: there’s no way to close every loophole, block every alternate interpretation or cover every circumstance. But with love, there are no loopholes. Love doesn’t end with the letter of the law, it doesn’t look for ways to cheat, it doesn’t try to take advantage of anyone. Love loves. Love is never self-seeking but instead puts other people first. Love does not insult others, loves doesn’t harm others. Instead, love is always patient, always kind, always protects, always forgives. Love, not the law, is where to start in every circumstance.
So where does this fairy-dust, magical, too-simple-to-be-true love come from? Jesus. He gave the command, he frees us from slavery to laws and teaches us what it means to love. If we believe in him, we are led by his Spirit and his Spirit teaches us all things. Instead of struggling to obey a litany of laws, we have one law. And thanks to his Spirit, this simple law of love is not a burden but instead freedom.
We don’t learn how to love by examining laws. We don’t learn how to love by fighting over definitions and words. We don’t learn how to love by trying to be more obedient. Instead, we learn to love because we believe Jesus is the way, the truth and life. He does the rest. His love creates love in us, his light drives out our darkness, his truth guides us into all truth.
There’s a lot of anger, hatred, violence, condemnation and nasty debate over a whole gaggle of social, political and environmental issues. Race discrimination, gun violence, climate change, marriage equality, immigration reform, gerrymandering and food labeling are just a handful of hot-button topics challenging hotly debated laws. Everyone seems to be backing one side or the other and division and angst is everywhere. So much of the time, all I want to do is shut myself away and wait for the world to sort itself out. Just tell me when it’s over.
But there’s something greater than all the nastiness and division. It’s what draws me out of hiding and encourages me to boldly go. It’s what brings healing where laws have utterly failed. We just need to believe and love one another.
How do you legislate love? Or compassion? Or forgiveness?