Many of us have grown up hearing a version of these words: "Just be good and keep the Ten Commandments and everything will be all right."
The trouble is, that is an impossible task. If we could do that, we would not need a savior and Jesus' death on the cross becomes an unnecessary cruelty.
The Scriptures echo this when Paul writes: "Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified." (Galatians 2:16 and again in Ephesians 2:8 and 9: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.")
Salvation, like every work of God, is founded in his character which is love. God's perfect love casts out all fear and draws us into relationship with him. Such love is radical. And it is this kind of radical love that we are called on to emulate and demonstrate in our everyday lives.
The Ten Commandments are proscriptive. They tell us what not to do. When I write a check out to someone and they endorse it and take it to the bank which them cashes it for me, it is fulfilled. It cannot be cashed again. Jesus did not void or annul the law. Jesus fulfilled God's law through his sinless life and his substitutionary death on the cross. His resurrection from the dead is proof of that.
The higher law that Jesus call us to is the law of love. It is a "love in which there is no fear" and which "makes no accounting of wrong." It is a selfless love that chooses to put others before ourselves. When asked, "What is the greatest commandment?," Jesus answered: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40)
These commandments are not proscriptive; rather, they are prescriptive.
"If I live in love for God I will not worship idols, dishonor his name or disobey his precepts. If I love my neighbor as myself I will feed the hungry, clothe that naked, and visit the widows and fatherless. I will not lie to him/her or steal his/her belongings. I will not commit adultery with his/her spouse. Because I choose love, these things will be far from my mind. Because I love I will keep no record of wrongs and take no notice of evil." (I Corinthians 13).
That is, I will not allow evil to dictate my actions, but I will choose to love.
Evil cannot be defeated by more evil. It can only be defeated by love. Darkness can only be defeated by light. I do not closed the blinds and draw the curtains to bring more light into my house. I open them and turn on lights to drive the darkness away.
The greatest force In the universe is God's love. If I choose to dwell in that love, I will be able to let go of all fear. Then, free from fear, I will let my light shine and show that world the power of Christ's love.
This is even more true for Christians. Jesus said to his followers: "This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you."
That is a love that is willing to do what is best for our brothers and sisters in Christ no matter what the cost to us. It is the love that compelled him to suffer and die that we might be born again into his family. It is God's love demonstrated throughout history.
Jesus went on to teach that it is this same radical love that will allow the world to know that we are his.
It is my desire to live in this radical love and show to all who will see.
"On Faith" is a weekly column in the News-Chronicle written by area religious leaders.