The Very Rev. Aidan Smith
There are, at least, 613 individual laws in the Hebrew Scriptures. Later additional non-canonical traditions and rules would be developed by theologians and priests (you’re very welcome) to help God’s people avoid breaking those laws. When Jesus says that he came to “fulfill the law of God” rather than “abolish it” is he just saying he is really, really good at following the rules? Far from it. He is saying that he can do something no one else can do—adhere to the spirit of the whole Hebrew law, rather than just its letter. This isn’t about behavior, it’s a matter of the heart.
This hits home when we stop thinking about trying to keep the 613 laws in some performative fashion and, instead, look behind the law. We see this done as Jesus occasionally summarizes the law for us. For example, when he gives us the so-called “Golden Rule,” saying, “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” he adds, “this is the Law and the Prophets.” And when Jesus is asked “which commandment is the greatest in the Law?” He replies by saying, “ ‘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.” And concludes with, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” What ties these summations of the law together: Love—a perfect love for God and a perfect love for our fellow human beings.
I think we can all agree that we fail to love perfectly on a regular basis. I know I do. But, thanks be to God, Jesus keeps the law of love without fail, when we everyone else fails to love at all. God’s love for you never wavers. Jesus loves perfectly always and that love is for you. No matter what.
Fr. Aidan is the Dean of Trinity Cathedral. He’s been married to Mel for 16 years and takes responsibility for the two incredibly cute but loud kids at church (Felicity, 6 and Solomon, 4). The Smiths also have a geriatric, one-eyed dog named Coho from Aidan’s hometown in northwestern Alaska.