Tender Laws, Tender Love
by Arun Gogna
Imagine for a moment that there are no rules governing traffic. No stoplights. No signs. No lanes. No policemen. You can just go where you want, when you want, however fast or slow you want.
Do you think you will reach your destination safely? Will you be able to do it in an orderly manner and in peace? Or in pieces?
Sometimes, it seems like laws are there to make our lives harder. Why use the U-turn slot one intersection away when you can make an illegal turn where you are? Why walk down the road to climb the pedestrian overpass when you can take a shorter route by jaywalking? Why stop at a red light when there’s no oncoming traffic?
But laws were given to us to make our lives easy, not difficult. They are commandments — not suggestions — to put order where there is disarray, light where there is darkness, certainty where there is ambiguity. They are provided for our benefit, not our detriment.
The same is true when it comes to God’s laws. The Laws were written not for God but for man. God has no need for them!
So why did He write them for us?
God gave us laws so that we may have more freedom.
Let me explain.
God’s laws are always relevant. They were given thousands of years ago but they remain applicable to our everyday life and for generations to come. These Commandments embody God’s wisdom, and are, thus, a source of peace, prosperity and holiness. They allow us to enjoy life freely, in the way God designed it to be — fully and abundantly (John 10:10).
That’s why I prefer to call them Tender Laws. They are God’s commands wrapped ever so tenderly in His infinite love.
Written with God’s Own Finger
When God gave us the Ten Commandments, also called the Decalogue, He didn’t dictate it for Moses to write down. Instead, like a maestro skillfully completing a work of art that symbolizes his very heart, God wrote them down on stone tablets with His very own finger (Exodus 31:18).
Later, God directed Moses to keep the tablets containing the Ten Commandments inside the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:16). It was so important to Him that He gave detailed instructions on how the ark and its tent should be constructed.
To the Jews, this ark is the greatest and most sacred artifact. Just think: If God put so much importance on the ark, how much more the very objects it contained?
According to the Talmud, a collection of writings that make up the Jewish civil and religious laws, 613 laws were given to Moses. Out of these, 365 were negative, corresponding to the days of the year; and 248 were positive, corresponding to the number of joints in the human body. These include such bizarre laws as the ones related to the Sabbath, like one can only take up to 1,000 steps, a couple cannot engage in the marital act, and a person can’t light a fire or prepare food on the Sabbath. The Pharisees in the New Testament forbade people to carry a bed (John 5:10), to heal a sick person (Mark 3:2), or pick a few ears of corn on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:2).
But when Jesus came, He called us to focus not on 500, 300 or 100 of these laws. He went right to their very core — the Ten Commandments.
In fact, later, He even narrowed it down to only two: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” All the laws are based on these, He said (Matthew 22:37-40). He also added a deeper spiritual dimension to the laws to get to its core meaning. But even if Jesus made the definitions both broader and more inclusive, He always demonstrated emphatically that the commandments will make life richer and more fulfilling.
Completing the Law
Jesus came, not just to observe the law, but also to complete it (Matthew 5:17-19). He didn’t end with legalistic “Thou shalt nots” but finished the bigger picture, making it more meaningful, more wholistic, more total.
Let’s take some of the commandments we memorized when we were growing up: Thou shall not commit adultery; Thou shall not steal; Thou shall not kill. Jesus came not only to fulfill these, but perfect them as well. He challenges us: “Yes, you do not commit adultery, but do you take care of your family? Yes, you do not steal, but are you generous? Indeed, you do not kill, but do you give life to those around you?”
So you see, the Decalogue unites our spiritual and social lives. The first three commandments speak about how to love and honor God. The remaining seven focus on love and respect for our neighbor.
Why am I telling you this?
A book on laws could be intimidating. We’re required to follow both human and divine laws every day. In the beginning, we obey mostly because we’re afraid to get caught. We do so out of fear. But as we see the benefits of having followed the law in our daily life, we then shift to a more logical reason for doing it.
We know that it brings order.
It feels right.
We discover that it is in fact a much better way of doing things.
And then we begin to do it by choice, not out of fear. However, there’s an even bigger shift. It comes when we obey because we realize that laws are actually built on love.
Ultimately, love is the reason why God gave us His laws. They are not just chiseled on two tablets of hard stone. They are handwritten in love. It may seem difficult to comprehend but God has designed it that way. He has given us laws for our benefit, for our happiness and, ultimately, for our salvation.
That’s what the Ten Commandments are for. And that’s what the greatest commandments are all about.
*This article originally appeared in Kerygma magazine September 2016 issue.
Kerygma. A Greek word meaning “Proclamation of the Gospel.” It is a Catholic inspirational magazine known for having changed thousands of lives, and has been hailed as the “Publishing Miracle of Asia”. It chronicles real miracles experienced by real people. It features testimonies of God’s unfailing love. Kerygma magazine has been in circulation for more than 25 years, and it will continue to do so for the next 25 more… and beyond.
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