Christ was asked about the practice of men being able to write out a letter of divorce and then throw their wives out. This reply was the result.
In this verse, Christ is clear that this commandment was not a gift to the people or a proof of their superior nature.
Instead, the law that Moses gave was proof of the hardness of their hearts. God gave them the law they could accept instead of the better law they should have been living which was to become one flesh and to care for each other.
Years ago, when reading about commandments, and this verse, it struck me that in Matthew 5:18 Christ also says:
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.Matthew 5:18
The law that was originally given by Moses may have been flawed and given to a flawed people yet Christ was not expunging the law but fulfilling its true purpose by his coming and calling people to care for each other in love.
So Christ flat out stated that parts of the law existed not because they were eternal but because the people were so hard of heart that they needed the laws or commandments that they were given. Those were their commandments.
In looking at practices and commandments in our own time, these specific words from Christ gave me pause.
We are told to liken scriptures unto ourselves. That means that when we look at the laws and commandments we have, we ought to look for perspectives of where Christ would take us if we softened out hearts.
It is an important perspective — the implication that parts of the commandments and guidance we operate under we have only because we are too hard of heart to act as God really would want of us.
It cannot be only those in the past who suffered from hard hearts and willful blindness and who did not care or love one another enough.
I thought of that again with the verses that the recent Come Follow Me lesson focused on. In Micah, the prophet calls out reliance on commandments and wealth instead of following the heart of the law.
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
That is, God wants justice, mercy and humility.
The lesson asks us to take those verses in parallel with a conference talk that refers to the scholar Hillel. He was challenged to explain the law while standing on one leg.
The speaker stated:
Hillel may not have had great balance but accepted the challenge.
He quoted from Leviticus, saying, “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
Hillel then concluded: “That which is hateful unto you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole of the Torah; the rest is commentary. Go forth and study.”Citation
He simplified all of the law to the great commandment, as Christ would also do, that of loving our neighbors. He expanded that by pointing out specifically that love excluded doing hateful things to our neighbors.
I’ve taken a long way to set up a few simple questions.
What do our readers think that we do in our day that is hateful because of the hardness of our hearts?
What do we do that is hateful that we try to blame on God’s commandments instead of showing that we value loving mercy and walking humbly?
And can we truly judge anyone else but ourselves and be fair or just?
What do you think?
I really really like this post. I feel the truth of it to my bones. I am convicted that this is indeed the crux of the gospel.
I have phrased it as trying to follow Jesus Christ in each situation I am in. What would he do if he were in my position facing the people and situations I face? How would he show his love? How can I show his love?
I feel this so strongly that I have to try to be humble and merciful in my approach dealing with members and a church that are more focused on checking off boxes to prove personal righteousness than on focusing on how their actions actually affect others.
I could list many many ways I feel that we as a church are in error in this regard. I fear that instead of using covenants as a way to increase our connection with God, they become a method of division and exclusion. I fear this is the opposite of what Christ would want. I fear our constant focus on temples and church leaders may not be focusing us on following Christ, but may instead be causing a focus blindly and obediently checking off boxes.
In all humility, that hasn’t happened with me. I try hard not to judge others harshly in this regard. But I can’t help but see examples in each talk and lesson.
Well said. I wish that all would consider the ideas that you shared and put them into practice. My self included.
I was thinking recently, that it would be awesome if when you went to the temple to learn the higher law, they just taught you that it was love.
“Okay, you’ve kept all the commandments leading you to this point, and the extra light and knowledge you receive is… It’s not about obeying the commandments, It’s all about LOVING people. That’s it. That’s the gospel.”
I think for me, that would bring me closer to God and help me be more Christ-like. For now, I just pretend like that’s what is taught at the temple.
Sorry–I’m coming to this discussion late. I agree that love is what we should be aiming for. Even so, the Savior qualified that love by giving his disciples a new commandment–which was that they should love each other in the way that he loved them. IMO–the fact that it was a *new* commandment meant that he was asking them to go beyond what the Two Great Commandments require. And that’s a lot to ask–more than we are able to muster by our own strength and genius.
And so the question is: how do we obtain the capacity to love each other in the same way that the Savior loves us? And the answer is simple–though not simplistic. We become like him–and *that’s* where the purpose of the temple comes into full view. The temple (the endowment in particular) has everything to do with transforming us into Christlike beings as we ascend to holier spheres. And it is through the process of becoming like him that we increase our capacity (over time) to love others the way he does.
I actually mostly agree with what’s in your comment. I will echo the statements of: “Loving in the way Christ loves is more than we are able to muster by our own strength and genius. And so the question is: how do we obtain the capacity to love each other in the same way that the Savior loves us? And the answer is simple–though not simplistic. We become like him. And it is through the process of becoming like him that we increase our capacity (over time) to love others the way he does.” Yep, totally agree. Steve Young talks about this in his book “The Law of Love.” He talks about the two tracks, the preparatory track of keeping the commandments that sets the stage and helps us to develop the type of character that will allow us to love- and then switching over to the second track, which is just LOVING other people.
However, it may just be due to my unrighteousness, but I haven’t experienced the temple in the way that you describe ” (*that’s* where the purpose of the temple comes into full view. The temple (the endowment in particular) has everything to do with transforming us into Christlike beings as we ascend to holier spheres.)”
I struggle with the temple, and I don’t feel that I’ve been transformed from going (and I have gone a lot). I feel like it doesn’t move me from the first track of obedience to the second track of LOVE. It just doubles down on the first track of obedience.
The message that I hear at the temple isn’t “It’s all about LOVING people. That’s the gospel.” The message I hear at the temple is, “Oh good, you’ve been keeping the commandments. Now, you need to keep them EVEN HARDER! Obey, sacrifice, follow the gospel, keep the law of chastity, and Dedicate all your time, talents, and everything to building up the church.”
From my recollection, I’m not sure the word Love is used in the temple ceremony- and I certainly don’t gain a focus of Loving other people as being the point of the gospel when I attend.
That’s why I just have to pretend in my mind that’s what is taught at the temple.
I don’t think it’s do to unrighteousness–at least not from where I stand. You seem like a kind person. I think it has more to do with “incremental growth being the order of the day”–as per Neal A. Maxwell. He also advised the saints to take stock of their insights on occasion. And that by doing so — with a little hindsight — they’ll be able to see that they actually have grown–even though it can be difficult to detect moment by moment. I’ve no doubt that the Lord accepts our sincere offerings–even if it’s just doing the best we can to live the gospel for the best reason we can come up with.
I appreciate it. I feel like I have grown a lot over the past year and really transformed my views and my heart. I’m in a much better and more loving and accepting place than I was a year ago. I just feel like I’ve had this transformation in-spite of the temple and correlated LDS teachings, rather than because of them. It’s been an interesting journey. I really do love the church and the gospel, I just feel like the church would benefit from making the shift from teaching obedience and purity, to teaching compassion and love (like Jesus did).