The revelation of God in the Law

When questioned regarding his interpretation of the Torah, Jesus claimed that the two greatest commandments were as follows: "'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:29-31) Ok, keep this in mind. We'll come back to it in a minute.

Think back to the Hebrew Scriptures. What is the most famous revelation of God's self in these scriptures? "I am that I am." (Exodus 3:14) We are all very aware of this self-revelation of God if for no other reason than we have all heard no less than 50 bad sermons preached on this verse. The interpretation of this passage is tricky at best and consequently leads preachers all over the board as they are trying to preach it. What we can say of this verse is that it is inherently an ontological declaration. There is no need to go outside of God to find God. This is a statement of being and not doing. True, the declaration is given to Moses as a means of initiating his involvement in the Exodus. However, the true force behind the Exodus is the very nature of God that is constantly at work in the world setting people free and giving voice to the oppressed. The action of God, and consequently God's people, come out of who God is.

Now, jump ahead to the New Testament. What is the most famous revelation of God in the New Testament? "God is Love." There is no more straight-forward declaration of God that this. Except for the fact that no one can really define what love is! There are two things, however, that we do know about love: love cannot be mistaken when experience and love always seeks the good of the one being loved. Even if we cannot give a concise definition of what love is, we do know it when we experience it. There is no doubting this. Thomas Merton once wrote that love is only love when it seeks the good of the one being loved. The presupposition of this statement is that there is an other to be loved! One cannot love without being in relationship with another! So, love automatically, in seeking the good of the other, draws us into relationship with the other. Furthermore, as Levinas would state, it is our relationship to the other that both necessitates and defines justice.

What is the point of all of this? In Jesus' answer to the question regarding the greatest commandment, he simply restates the self-revelation of God given in the scriptures! "Love the Lord your God..." How can one do this unless one roots themselves in the God who is! Once we are rooted in the God who is, doing springs forth as an extension of our being. Because we are in God, now we experience love. This love drives us into relationship with our neighbor, with the other, and seeks the good of the other over ourselves. This may sound familiar, "the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many," "no greater love has any many than this, that he lay down his life for his friends," and the list goes on and on.

I realize that the implications of this entry are rather basic to the Christian faith. Still I need to be reminded that we find ourselves in God and then go and do the work of God. Paul says it best (actually the heathen poets of Crete say it best), "it is in Him we live and move and have our being."