This is how we ended the last reading. “But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.” Now we know what Paul was referring to. It’s all about love. This is probably a familiar passage, especially if you’ve attended a wedding. What better setting than a wedding to review God’s ideal way of life! It sets up the newlyweds for success and reminds us all how love works.
We are called to love one another, and Paul describes for us what that looks like. Love is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot for things, like “I love chocolate.” While I am very much a fan of chocolate and will choose chocolate over pretty much any other flavor if given a choice, “loving” it in a Biblical sense doesn’t quite fit.
King David is portrayed in several different ways in this text. As king and as a father, we see David in a bit of torment. Yet, he doesn’t let this stop him. He only asks, “deal gently with young Absalom.” David doesn’t use the word “son,” perhaps because it hurts too much to know his own son has turned away from him.
When his predecessor, Saul, learned that his own son, Jonathan had turned against him, he went bezerk. David does not lose his composure or ability to lead. In fact, he is seen as “too valuable” to go to war against Absalom.
Did you ever push the boundaries when you were a child growing up? I certainly did. Even though I was a bit afraid of my mother and her paddle, I would still “sass back” and try to get my way. Looking back, being the oldest had its drawbacks. I watched my younger brother get away with a lot of the same things I had gotten scolded for!
On the parental side, I know how frustrating it is to watch our children test and learn. I also know how difficult it can be to employ the discipline called for or expected. In our reading today, we see the Israelites falling back into the same evil trap of following other gods and angering our one, true God. It seems that God has finally had enough!
How can we even imagine what Jesus went through in these final hours. Pilate tried to set him free, but Jesus’ destiny had been set. You can read the whole chapter of Mark 15 for more of those details. It used to shock me how the people turned on Jesus. And while it is still shocking, I can see how God had to cloud their minds so that the cries of “crucify him” would be more than Pilate could bear. These outlandish charges would not warrant a death sentence.
But imagine how Jesus, that is God, felt hearing the angry cries, the chants calling for his death. Even though he expected to die, it had to be difficult to hear coming from the people who days before had been shouting, “Hosanna!” These were the very people he loved so much and would be giving his life for. The inner turmoil must have been agonizing. He couldn’t just blink his eyes and have it over with. He had to endure the cruelty of the cross for us.
The freedom Paul talks about isn’t a commodity you can buy or earn. Freedom isn’t something you get to save for a rainy day. Rather, freedom is a gift from God that increases in value when you use it wisely and can be lost if you misuse or abuse it. This gift is ours because Jesus took on our humanity and sacrificed himself for us.
With all the talk of the law leading up to this short passage, I was surprised that Paul said this. “For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” *emphasis added. While it is true that many of the commandments are focused on acting in ways that show our love for others, he is missing the other part of this. We need to love God with our whole heart as well. When we focus on loving God and others, we are living how God intends for us to live. We are thereby following the “law” because of our best practices in the love department.