Thursday, 11 February 2016

The choice of life

At the end of their journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land, Moses calls upon the people of Israel to recognise that the gift of freedom and a place to be themselves relies for ever on choices they will continue to make in their new life. 'See, today I set before you life and prosperity, death and disaster.' (Deut 30:15) 

The best of life can be enjoyed, as Moses says: 'If you love God and follow his ways' (Deut 30:16), not just doing whatever we wish. The lesson to be learned from the sojourn in the wilderness was how much people left to their own devices would disregard God's law, revealed to guide and protect them, with fatal consequences. 

It's possible for the most part, to life a good enough life, abiding by high moral standards and obeying laws which govern society for the common good. The majority of people see this as being in their best interests, or simply take it as a necessary given of life, for whatever reason. Society would collapse into chaos without this. The re-iteration of 'choose life' in the exhortations of Moses, suggests that more is to be expected, a choice to be continually renewed, renewed out of love for God.

True motives for compliance and obedience to laws that regulate life together may range from fear to ambition, or a sense of security in conforming to expectation. Love for God is inseparable from love for neighbour. Jesus quoted the teaching of Moses when he said: 

"The most important commandment is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Deut 6:4-5) And the second is this: Love your neighbour as yourself.' (Lev 19:18b) There is no commandment greater than these."

The choice to keep on loving is always before us, and affects all that we are and do. Jesus, like the prophets before him, spoke out against hypocrisy - acting in a way that is superficially in compliance with divine law, but actually serving one's own self-interest, with no regard for the need of others. Paul in Romans 13:10 writes: 'Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.' Love calls upon a higher obligation to look out for the interests of others, demanding responsibility in the exercise of personal freedom. 

In choosing the way of self sacrifice that would lead him to Calvary, Jesus put the best interests of humankind ahead of his own. He set the example of exercising his freedom totally in serving others, conscious this was indeed a burdensome responsibility. 

'If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself, and take up his cross every day, and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

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