If any of you have been following the comments after my posts, you know there is a mysterious anonymous who comments on my blog more than anyone else. Today, the mysterious anonymous posted an excellent comment after "Love and the Law," and I feel that all of you should have the opportunity to read it. Sure, the mysterious anonymous and I disagree on a few points, but he/she makes excellent analogies and points about the Two Great Commandments.
Here it is:
Figuring out how to love like Christ is hard.
However you don't need to say that your not smart enough to figure it out by just reading the two. Sure, as a rhetorical tool that comment gives your point of view strength by submitting yourself to the complex weight of the two, but the thing is who said that you or I had "to figure anything out." That implies there is an answer; that implies that the point of the human struggle is the destination and downplays the all-important journey.
I think I understand you as saying that it isn't that the two aren't good enough, what it sounds like you are saying is that in fact the two are so hard that there is no way to really wrap your heart around them without more guidance. If so I totally agree with that, the two aren't enough for me to "figure anything out" either, but they are good enough for me to struggle trying.
The way I see it is that before the temple veil was torn, humans were so far separated from God that they needed intermediaries and rules and laws and sacrifices in order to close the gap in communication and put us back in union with God.
Christ was the personal gap closing, unifying, relationship building conduit—a perfect mediator, counselor, teacher, pastor that tore down all the law that could be kept but that ultimately got people nowhere.
So Christ gave us two. Two really hard things that individualize the struggle and more importantly individualize the relationship.
Anything other than the two is arguably an individual struggle, but it is not as dynamic of a struggle in my opinion.
For example, say someone can meet 65% of the laws in the Pearl of Great Price. They are really good at 65% of the stuff so they start to work on the 35% they are not good at. Soon they are good at the 35% but are starting to fall behind on the other 65% they used to be good at.
Although the struggle to adhere to the Pearl is individualized to an extent, that original 65% may not have been that much of a struggle to begin with, so what was the benefit from doing it well? And what is the benefit to now being able to do the 35% well.
So what I am getting at is that the two laws allow for personalized, individualized struggle that is not confined by checklists.
I know from my experience that I used to think I had to do x, y, or z in order to be in communion with God. That just created a vicious cycle of self-flaggelation in the end; for when I failed, which I was destined to do I beat myself up over my failure. I am not saying every person will do that, but I sort of see that same sentiment in your comment about how your not smart enough to figure things out on your own (a comment which you have made in some vein previously).
If we think that we are too dumb to figure out how to love like Christ that is fine, it is stating the obvious, but that should be a pit stop on the journey. A quick acknowledgment and nothing more.
We need to get back out there and struggle, we need to try to catch up to Jesus on that road and be covered in the dust of our rabbi.
Stopping along the way to check off our progress doesn't always but can in effect trap us into the role of the constant map-checker who doesn't see the two signs that are there in front of us to guide us.
What is ultimately the most important part of the two is how they bring us out from the grave.
Depression, alcoholism, addictions, abusiveness, etc. are all things that when you are the one experiencing those things seem like they are pits you will never escape.
What I think the two do is find that person, that alcoholic or addict where they are at. The two does not through a mess of stuff at them, but it gives them a rope of hope out rather than a ladder of law.
I use the analogy to rope because it is harder to climb a rope then walk the rungs of the ladder.
Each rung can represent a law, but once you have passed one it is no longer necessary or it becomes less apparent as a necessity to the overall journey.A rope on the other hand is hard to climb, it can be coarse and burn you, but you have to have your whole body wrapped in it to effectively use it.
One reason I think religions are so popular is because they offer more than the 2. that is why I have personally moved as far away from "churches" as I can and truly desire to be in a community of rope climbers.
When I studied the black Muslim movement in the U.S. at the time that Malcolm X was moving up in the ranks of the nation of Islam I realized that one of the reasons it was so attractive was that it provided young black men in particular a way out. It gave them structure, and it gave them confidence, it gave them support. It taught them how to love themselves when before they had not felt they could do anything. It also taught them how to love God. It did this by providing them laws. What it didn't do was teach them how to love others just as much as they loved themselves. The militant nature of the movement is ultimately what allowed for the peaceful nature of MLK's movement to draw in enough white support in Washington to bring change— the alternative to accepting MLK was having to deal with X and his growing army.
I say all of that about X because I see in almost every evangelical denomination a sense of militant ism. I see rules and laws.
I see these rules and laws as being mostly good, but I am never impressed by mostly good things, especially when they can in some rare occasions turn into really bad things: the crusades, the persecution of Jews, and of course even the horrible abuse and persecution of Mormons.
So I recuse myself to the two, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Not because I don't need help trying to figure anything out, but because I don't even know what the anything is.