The Pharisees 7 - Love Vs. Law
Chan Gin Kai
On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shrivelled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shrivelled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there. (Luke 6:6-8)
When the Pharisees saw a man with a shrivelled hand in the synagogue, they did not feel sympathy but instead saw an opportunity, a trap to accuse Jesus of breaking the Law. They knew Jesus would choose to heal the man even though it was the Sabbath. They knew he would choose love over Law.
Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. (Luke 6:9-10)
Jesus knew the Pharisees planned to trap him, but he still healed the man. It was as much out of empathy for the man, as a teaching point to the people in the synagogue, that practising love is more important than observing the Law. Jesus would later teach on another occasion that loving God and loving people are the two greatest commandments, and that “all the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Love triumphs over the Law. Love is the reason why the Law existed in the first place.
Jesus loves God and people, and everything he did springs from his incredible love. He didn’t help the less fortunate because it was a noble thing to do, but because he loves them. He didn’t preach and die for us because he was tasked by God to do so, but because he loves us.
Having being a Christian for a little over three decades, it has become quite easy to do all the ‘good things’ because it is the right thing to do. I’ve done them because it is about obedience to God and pursuing righteousness. It is about respecting the Bible, having integrity and growing virtues. All of these reasons are well and good, but is the most important reason present? Do I first and foremost, do all of these for love?
To the Pharisees, righteousness (which for them was legalistic obedience of the Torah and Mishnah) took precedence over love for people. So observing Sabbath was more important than healing the sick. When the Pharisees had criticised Jesus for dining with tax collectors not long before this incident, he had answered them, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’” (Matthew 9:13) Jesus had quoted from Hosea 6:6, teaching that God desires love more than external practices of piety.
Obedience that is built on integrity, discipline and respect for the rules, breeds self-righteousness. Don’t get me wrong, we can all do with more integrity, discipline and respect; they are great virtues to have. But obedience because of these virtues alone, without love as the foundation, often leads to pride. Obedience that springs from love inspires and refreshes us.
For leaders in the Kingdom, do we love righteousness more than we love God and people? Do we teach and enforce obedience more than we teach love? Of course we want to help our groups and church to repent of their sins and be obedient to God, but that must spring from their love and gratitude to Him. Obedience without love is meaningless. The many laws, rules, and guidelines will soon weigh them down and become a burden. Do we have brothers and sisters under our care that feel like following Christ is a chore instead of a joy? We’re certainly not going to water down our seriousness towards sin or diluting Christianity for them. Instead, by helping them to appreciate Christ and grow in their love for God, they will discover joy again.
Are you more known to be obedient, committed and righteous? Or are you known for your love and kindness? Jesus is of course totally obedient to God, and righteous without a flaw. But it is his love that has touched and impacted us.
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Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God".