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Dave Brisbin

Love is the Law

The purpose of a fish trap is to catch a fish. Once the fish is caught, the trap is forgotten.
The purpose of a rabbit snare is to catch a rabbit. Once the rabbit is caught, the snare is forgotten.
The purpose of words is to convey ideas. Once the ideas are grasped, the words are forgotten.
Show me a person who has forgotten words. That’s the one I want to talk to.

Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu, wrote this three hundred years before Jesus, but it speaks to a timeless part of human nature. We are always getting means and ends confused. Missing the forest for the trees—missing the intent of a process by getting lost in its details, letting those details become an end in themselves, more important than the purpose for which they were put in place. This phenomenon of putting carts before horses is probably most clearly seen in religious practice.

An old joke: Why don’t Baptists allow premarital sex? Because it leads to dancing…

When it comes to law, religious or civil, we have often followed the practice of prohibiting behavior that may lead to larger offenses. But what happens when prohibiting the gateway behavior becomes more important than the unlawful behavior itself? Or when the code of the law itself becomes more important than the community it was meant to protect?

This is what both Chuang Tzu and Jesus are confronting. The religious laws of the Hebrew bible existed to preserve the life of the community and promote the awareness of God’s presence…not as a test of righteousness. The Hebrew word we translate as law really means instruction or guidance, which means that the rules are not goodness in themselves; they can only point us in that direction—a means of personal formation, of assuming the values of the law’s intent. Expressed in scripture as writing the law on our hearts, law is only needed until we learn to love, then the law can disappear.

We have learned to follow rules as the proof of our goodness and acceptance, but…

The purpose of the law is to catch God’s goodness. Once goodness is caught, the law can be forgotten.
Show me a person who has forgotten law. That’s the one I want to obey.


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