Much more comfortable with readings that speak plainly of love than of law, I wasn’t thrilled this morning to see Deuteronomy show up with a first line of “this day the Lord God commands you…” I was pleasantly surprised, however as I read on and heard that the observation of the law was to be not with the mind and will (although that would necessarily be involved) but with “all your heart and all your soul.” The entire section (DT 26:16-19) was based on an agreement that sounded quite mutual, resulting in the Israelites becoming “a people peculiarly his own, as he promised.”
Jesus took this theme and expanded it at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (MT 5:43-48) – an extraordinary section that calls us to love those we would not and sometimes think we could not: our enemies and those who hate us. There is that line at the end that people (including myself) are always trying to translate in a softer way than what we learned as children. It says be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. What dawned on me this morning, however, in putting the two readings together (I really am a slow learner sometimes!) is that the perfection is not the perfection that comes from the mind – working hard at while still resisting internally what the “law” calls for. Rather, Jesus is talking about that law of the covenant in Deuteronomy, that agreement of God with his people that comes from the heart and the soul. That law is not about resisting anything but rather letting go of what holds us back and allowing love to flow through us as God does in the entire creation. The perfection of love is what God already is. It is only in God that we can accept the terms of this law and move toward it each day anew so that, in the end, when we see God “face to face” we will recognize ourselves in God’s eyes the way that God already sees us.