“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
In the Christian Bible, the above is stated by Jesus of Nazareth. Many regard him as a prophet, himself. And as one who believes that prophets come to speak on The Creator’s behalf, I am inclined to agree with that assessment. (As a practicing Christian, I believe that Jesus was both a prophet and the fulfillment of prophecy, but that is a discussion for another day.)
Today, I want to talk about the very real tension created in the above quote. It equates two things that are inherently unequal, the law and the prophets. And even if the speaker doesn’t equate the two, it does imply some relationship, a common denominator, if you will.
(I’ll try to end my math sentence analogy here, as I have far too many genius friends who would could point out the errors in my assumptions, and ain’t nobody got time for calculus lessons today.)
The law and the prophets, even in Jesus’ day were at odds with one another, Jesus, himself being an example. His own prophecy (speaking truth to power, foretelling of the future, calling for repentance,and challenging the status quo) led to his death.
Even before Jesus’ time, the Old Testament prophets found themselves at war with the governments of their day. Elijah fled before Ahab and Jezebel. Samuel, who serves as judge and prophet, anoints both the first and second king of Israel, only to find himself at odds with both during their reigns. And Moses, both a prophet, and the great law-giver, finds himself so frustrated with the customs (common-law)of the people he is called to serve, that he wishes to die.
Today is April 4, 2018. Fifty years ago, a prophet stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, and was gunned down. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. found himself at odds with not just local officials, but the federal government. Dr. King preached a radical message of loving your neighbor, expanding the definition to include not just fellow Americans of different racial, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds, but that also included Vietnamese citizens on the other side of the world with whom we were at war.
His dream has yet to become a reality. On Sunday, many of us celebrated the resurrection. Today, as we remember the awful death of another of God’s messengers, let’s do what we can to bring his message back to life.