Love. It’s the fundamental teaching of every religion. In our own Christian faith, Jesus presented it in the form of the two greatest commandments: Love God. Love your neighbor. And when a young man asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. In other words, he added that third commandment of love: Love your enemies.
These commandments of love can seem so pleasant, so up-lifting, so acceptable, but one thing they are not is easy. Jesus showed us what it takes to live them every time he reached out to the outcasts in his culture: the sick and disabled, the laborer and the tax collector, the prostitute and the thief, the widow and the child. He also showed what it takes each time he encountered the officials of his time and place, restoring life to the child of an officer of the army that occupied his homeland and healing the severed ear of a soldier who came to arrest him. He kept living the laws of love no matter how much he was ridiculed or threatened. He kept living the laws of love all the way to the cross where he forgave his torturers and executioners who found such laws a threat to their own.
Today, God’s laws continue to conflict with human laws. After all, if we gave precedent to God’s laws over human laws, how could we invest our God-given talents and resources in the creation and development of nuclear weapons? How could we justify torture? How could we allow people to go without adequate food, clean water, affordable housing, living wages, high-quality education, universal health care, and a sustainable environment? How could we tolerate racism, sexism, ageism, classism, or any other type of discriminatory ism? How could we permit people to be imprisoned for nonviolent protests against the deaths of innocent civilians in war and allow their killers to go free?
If God’s law superseded human law, could someone aggressively pursue an unarmed teenager and kill him, claiming self-defense only after he initiated the altercation, and be acquitted? Could “stand your ground” apply to the perpetrator, but not the accosted? Could “stand your ground” be law at all?
Many like to describe our country as a country of laws and a Christian country, but is it possible to be both when civil law so badly contradicts the laws that Christ taught us? Jesus was renowned for putting God first. If he were in George Zimmerman’s shoes, Trayvon Martin would most likely be alive today. Hard as it is, when we face any dilemma between God’s laws and human law, let us make sure that God’s laws of LOVE win out.