In our last conversation, Bill mentioned a book by Gaylord Enns called Love Revolution. I remember reading it some time ago, finding it to be a surprisingly important book, and then forgetting about it.
So went to my shelves this past week, found it, and have been mulling over it ever since.
In this book Enns tells the story of how his life was changed by discovering a basic difference between the Old and New Testaments. While the author builds his case very carefully, here, in his words, is some of what he concluded:
“The two core commandments of the Old Covenant are rooted in my finite ability to love God and my neighbor… In contrast I realized in striking clarity that the two core commandments of the New Covenant are rooted in God’s infinite love for me.” p. 67, Love Revolution.
I think Enns sees an important distinction as he goes on to say:
The foundational and core commandments of the Old Testament are:
(1) To love the God who delivered Israel from Egypt with all of our heart, soul, and strength, and (2) to love our neighbor as ourselves.
The foundational and core commands of the New Testament are:
(1) To believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God (John 3:16) and then (2) to love one another, as he has loved us (John 13:34)
Both (1John 3:23) show up together time after time in the New Testament.
Building on this distinction, Enns goes on to show that, according to what Paul calls the law of Christ (Gal 6:2) (Gal 5:14), and what James refers to as the Royal Law (James 2:8) and the Law of Liberty (James 2:12) — by the terms of the New Testament, it is not possible to love God without loving one another (1John 4:19-21).
Having said all of this, looking back from a New Testament point of view it’s clear that no one in either Old or New Testament eras has ever lived apart from the Divine energy and grace of God. Yet there is a stunningly basic and clear distinction between the terms of the Old and New Testaments.
So, I think it’s more than worth thinking together about whether any of us can reasonably presume to live in compliance with the Spirit of God by keeping his commandments—unless by that we mean (by his grace) (1) believing in his Son, and (in his Spirit) (2) slowly learning to love one another as he has so patiently, kindly, and mercifully loved us…