Thought for the Day by Emma Temple (All Hallows’)
Reading: Deuteronomy 5:1-22
It feels like the last year has been defined by rules; stay at home, rule of six, hands face space, one metre plus. These sound bites capture tiny segments of ways we have been asked to love our neighbours in a totally new, uncertain, and dangerous time. It’s forced me to explore my relationship with rules, the ways in which they are helpful, and the ways in which they are hard.
In some ways rules have been comforting. Over the past few months of stay at home orders, I’ve found it much easier to know what is safe and what isn’t. Although the limits on our activities and distance from loved ones have been extraordinarily painful, we have simple and clear boundaries to keep us safe.
The recent lifting of restrictions has brought about mixed feelings for many of us. While I am so excited to be seeing friends and family again, the increased ambiguity of the easing rules makes me uneasy. The new rules leave more room for decisions which some might be more comfortable making than others. Freedom comes with the burden of choice – just because we can, does that mean we should?
Our Deuteronomy reading today tells the story of Moses receiving the ten commandments. These commandments set very clear and precise boundaries for the people of Israel which summed up the 613 laws contained in the previous scriptures. As clear as they are though, we humans still find ways to argue about their meaning; ‘Is it technically stealing if…’, ‘Does that really count as an idolatrous image if…’, ‘Surely we can still do that on the sabbath if…’ Our imperfect minds love to justify and interpret our way around laws, no matter how clear they are.
One of my favourite gospel passages is Jesus telling us that the laws can be summed up perfectly in one simple ask – that we love the Lord our God, and love our neighbour as ourself. The heart of all these laws is, simply, love.
If we focus on the letter of the law, there will always be technicalities and pitfalls. But if the heart of these laws is love, then all we need do is put that love at the centre of our lives and our actions, and let grace do the rest. Justin Welby says that the ten commandments ‘define the parameters beyond which love cannot exist.’
Jesus sets us free to live out of this love, to take risks and to live abundantly. Jesus even broke the laws of his religious community to act out of love for the people right in front of him. While this freedom still carries a burden of choice, we can feel safe in the knowledge that we are loved and always will be.
What is your relationship with rules?
How have you felt about restrictions easing this past week?
What does it look like when we centre our lives around love?