There’s been a lot of talk lately about how we, as a society, make, enforce and follow laws.
That is a worthwhile and necessary conversation. But, before we can form good answers in the realm of secular law, we, as Christians, must come to grips with how we follow the law that supersedes all laws — the law of the kingdom of God.
St. Paul — who was himself executed for violating secular law — tells us in Romans 2 it is not enough to merely hear, read and memorize passages of Scripture.
“All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law,” Paul told the Church in Rome, which was then suffering great persecution. “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified.”
It is not the hearers who are righteous, but the doers. In today’s context, that means we cannot call ourselves righteous if we hear Scripture, read and memorize it, attend church regularly, or if we lead a church or digital ministry, if we do not allow God’s law to change our lives. We are not righteous if we speak Scripture with our lips, but harden our hearts against, and fail to use our hands to uplift, the marginalized, oppressed, poor, imprisoned, hungry and suffering among us.
Paul goes on to tell us what matters is not following the law with our lips, or in name or by dogma or doctrine, but that we follow it with our hearts, and then act on it.
“When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves,” Paul tells us. “They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.”
Christ judges the secret thoughts of all, and calls us righteous when the meaning of the law is written on our hearts, and in our actions. Conversely, it matters not how often we quote or how much we read or memorize Scripture, if we do not allow it to guide our hearts and actions.
How, then, do we live our daily lives to demonstrate the law is written on our hearts?
Christ did not leave us guessing. And he leaves no gray area when it comes to fulfillment of the law.
In Matthew 22, Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
This is taken further in John 13: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
Love your neighbor as Christ loves you. Love those who hate you. Love those unlike you. Love those you don’t understand. Love those who are marginalized, oppressed and forgotten. Love those whose wealth and privilege have turned their face from God. Love your neighbor.
That is the fulfillment of divine Law. And if we are to live as Christians, it must be the beginning, the enforcing, the face and substance of every other law.