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We seem to be a people very skilled in arithmetic.  Oh, we would not see it that way, and we might even say we are not good in math.  But I beg to differ.

Let’s start with addition.  Don’t you find that we’re always adding to our list of essentials, making more and more things seem necessary all the time?  What was once enough no longer is.  The term “less is more” is a recognition of that and a call to return to something simpler.

And boy, are we ever good at taking away.  If the truth doesn’t quite suit our needs, we just overlook a fact or two and we’re looking good once again.

Mulitiplication?  Well, that’s just glorified addition.  It’s cipherin’ on a grand scale!  But division, now that’s not just taking away many times over.  It draws lines.  It separates and categorizes and causes all sorts of trouble.  It creates everything from minor squabbles to world wars.

So this got me to thinking about laws, specifically God’s laws.  He started out just saying one thing, but when people couldn’t handle that, He had Moses write down 10 more.  Then there were a few books written to explain how to live out those 10 essential things.  This was not overkill.  This was necessary.  But here’s the thing:  Some folks got all tangled up in the particulars of the law and they forgot why the laws were written in the first place.  Then, instead of thinking for themselves and applying a few principles to their lives, they became more concerned with the fine points.

Enter Jesus.  He has such a beautiful way of boiling it down.  You know what He said?  He said the most important thing we can do is to love the Lord our God with everything we’ve got.  That’s it.  And when we do that, we will love other people just as much as we love ourselves, which is really quite a bit.

That is the sum total of what God wants of us.  It’s all about love.  We must not take away from what He said, nor should we add to it.  If we do things because of love, it’s love.  If we do things without love, it’s meaningless.  And when we love Him, the rest comes naturally.

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Did you ever wonder how it works that Jesus came to set us free, yet He seemed to add even more to what God had already said in the Law of the Old Testament?  Come on!

God says, “Thou shalt not murder,” and Jesus said that even if we hate someone we have already committed murder in our heart.  We’re all doomed!  And how about this one:  God says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” but Jesus said that if we even look at another with lustful thoughts, we have already violated this commandment.  Does this sound like freedom?

I find two principles in this idea which are very encouraging to me.  The first is that Jesus, though He did not come to negate even one letter of the law, is more interested in our motives than the fine legal points.  This is true of the positive stuff as well as these “shalt nots.”  Look at what He did on many Sabbath days:  He healed people, much to the horror of the religious folks of His day, and to His own demise.  This seemed to be a violation of God’s law, but He was, and is, more concerned with the intent of the law, and with compassion, than with keeping law for law’s sake.  The law is good, after all.

The other thing is that Jesus did not come to bring more law, but more grace.  I get chills when I think of this one!  Whereas it looks at first glance like He is telling us that no matter what we do or don’t do, we can never measure up (and yes, He is saying that), He’s saying that He offers forgiveness for not only the actions we commit or withhold, but also the intentions of our heart.  His ability to deal with our shortcomings and moral guilt are even greater than the scope of our offenses.

I can live with that.

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