Sunday, July 29, 2018

Met Georges Khodr: The Moral Rule

Arabic original here.

The Moral Rule

Some people have the notion that the Ten Commandments contain all Christian morals. The truth is that they are an example and that there are many sins that these commandments do not mention. Moreover, the Second Commandment, "Keep the Sabbath holy," is a Jewish ritual matter to which we are no longer bound, as the Lord has liberated us from the Sabbath in His resurrection. Our refraining from work on Sunday is not a divine commandment. It is an ecclesiastical order whose basis is performing the Divine Liturgy. In the Old Testament itself, the most comprehensive rule is this: "Love the Lord your God as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18). Jesus took this up: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment." After that, He added, "And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37-40). Then, to sum it all up, He says, "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."

But what is the connection between this new commandment and the Ten Commandments? Paul clarifies this: "He who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery. You shall not murder. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness. You shall not covet,' and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law" (Romans 13:8-10).

A person might start out by keeping the laws and then, if he comes to know Jesus, he understands that our ability to fulfill them comes from God's grace. So that the commandments are not a sword dangling over man's head, they must spring forth from the heart that is illumined by the light of Christ. This is the New Covenent that Jeremiah spoke of when he said, "I will cause them to dwell safely. They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart...
I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them" (Jeremiah 32:37-40). Because the Holy Spirit dwells in us and we know the tranquility that we have from God, we carry out every word from Him. If a word comes to be within us, it brings forth good work.

In the kingdom of Christ and in his dominion over us, in our having tasted His love for us, we have come to do what pleases Him and this gives us joy. When the kingdom appeared with Christ, Jesus gave us the law of the kingdom that is expounded in the Gospel of Matthew in what is called the Sermon on the Mount, which appears in Chapters 5, 6, and 7 and the corresponding passages in Luke.

This begins with the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the poor in spirit." Jesus does not bring a law whose roots are unknown to the Old Covenant. He came to complete it. Jesus fulfills prophecy and brings it to its perfection. He makes it possible through the love that He gave. Jesus fulfills the old law and ties it to the mystery of love. There was a commandment over man. Now it comes from the person who has surrendered himself to the Lord.

Jesus goes to the roots. "You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder...'
But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment. Likewise, you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." It is not a matter of our refraining from something external, but rather that we purify the heart so that it does not incline to evil.

Therefore Christian morals are based on man training his soul to love the Lord and keeping watch over it so that it refrains from sin and loves good. At that point, the commandments spring forth automatically from the purified heart.

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