SUNDAY’S READINGS | October 31, 2021

Ruth 1:1-18 or Deut. 6:1-9
Ps. 146 or Ps. 119:1-8
Heb. 9:11-14
Mark 12:28-34

What are we to do? In the Old Testament, this question is answered, “Keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you” (Deut. 6:2-3). According to rabbinic tradition, the total number of laws and decrees, more than half of which are prohibitions, is 613. Although some are unobservable today in the absence of a Jewish Temple, many are still obeyed by strict and observant Orthodox Jews, meaning that a wide range of daily activities is governed by law. Christians, of course, are “free from the law” but not free from the question the law answers.

How are we to live? What does God require?

At the very least, Christians will see a summary of what is owed to God and our neighbors in the Ten Commandments. Worship no other gods and make no graven images. Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Honor your father and mother. Do not murder, commit adultery, steal, bear false witness, or covet your neighbor’s spouse and property. The observance of these laws demonstrates reverence for God and a proper respect for our fellow human beings, whom we honor foremost by the evil we refrain from doing. Further, every person faces obligations that are intrinsic to one’s vocation and station in life, and these obligations, both small and great, must be accepted as one’s “bounded duty.” So, there are things we must do and things we must refrain from doing.

But there is something more than the mere observance of rules. We are called to “love” what God commands; in fact, God is the very love by which our hearts are enkindled, and our wills stirred toward the will of God, and so, our intentions, in perfect freedom, move along a path that providence has paved. We start by loving God through the love that he gives, and then we move out in love toward our neighbors.

“One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that [Jesus] answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall 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, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these’” (Mark 12:28-31).

What does it mean to love from the heart? Love is a “cleaving” to the beloved. “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). This love is not only marital. It includes our love for God and all people. The words of Ruth to her mother-in-law, Noami, are a beautiful expression of love from the heart. “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die — there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!” (Ruth 1:16-17).

We have obligations to God and our neighbors, and we fulfill them through an indwelling supernatural love.

Look It Up: John 21:17

Think About It: God is asking, and people in your life are asking, “Do you love me?”