Romans 13: 8-10
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “you shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
There is a symbol used in mathematics, it looks like a figure 8 lying on its side; It sort of looks like a diagram for a race track or a model train track layout or something. Does anyone know the symbol that I am speaking of? And what does it stand for? Infinity – that is correct. The mathematical symbol for infinity looks like the number eight lying on its side.
The mathematical concept of infinity is something to try to get your mind around. Infinity essentially means that whatever is infinite has no boundaries, no beginning and no end, it continues forever. In the big picture, the universe, as we understand it, is thought to be infinite. In other words, you could travel at the speed of light, which is something like 186,000 miles per second, (which is about 7 times around the planet every second) if I remember correctly, and you could travel at that speed for millions of years and never reach the end of the universe. Scientists tell us that as big as it is, the universe is still expanding. If it is infinite, which means it is all there is, then what exactly is it expanding in to? Let me know when you have that one figured out. Like I said, the concept of infinity is really something to try to get your mind around.
The universe gives us a good idea of what infinity looks like in the big picture. But what about the small picture? There is a hypothesis put forth in mathematics that numbers are also infinite. There isn’t a limit to how high you can count – we can always continue to add zeros and commas where necessary and allow numbers to get as big – or as small as we want. Consequently, there is another theory around the idea of infinity that I find fascinating; This is the theory that if you continue to divide a distance by two, you will never arrive at your destination – because the numbers and the distance the numbers represent, are infinite. Obviously, we could not detect such small distances with the naked eye, but the theory is an interesting one.
For example, if I am ten feet away from this table – I could move half the distance, or divide by two, and now I am only five feet from the table. Do that again, and now I am only 2 ½ feet from the table. One more time would bring me to within about 15 inches of the table, one more time after that and I would be only 7 ½ inches from the table. Certainly, you would think, that if we kept going, I would eventually reach the table. Common sense would say of course, you will reach the table; mathematics and the concept of infinity on the other hand, would say no. The distance remaining to reach the table is indefinitely divisible by two. You will never get there.
So why am I talking about this stuff anyway? I’m so glad you asked. I view the scripture that I read just a few minutes ago as an answer to a problem that was present in the time and place it was written. The problem was it seemed impossible to please God in every way. There were too many laws, too many commandments. It seemed like the distance to a relationship with God was always just out of reach – perhaps you perpetually only got half-way there. Follow one set of laws, and another set was waiting for you just around the corner. Follow those laws, and more could always be found. It seemed the law had become infinite; until a man by the name of Jesus came and gave a new law. In that new law there was only one thing to remember, just one thing to do – love your neighbor – that was it. Actually that is still it – just that one thing. The law had gone from infinite to singular practically overnight. Now love was all there was and love was all that was needed. Infinite love could fulfill the infinite law.
That was then; but this is now. We don’t seem to struggle with the law so much anymore. But we do struggle with judgment, with condemnation, with divisive attitudes and an underlying distrust of each other. As a matter of fact, it seems unless someone thinks almost exactly the same way you do, you are just a little suspicious of that person. I personally have been accused more than a few times of leading people astray and my dangerous and destructive preaching goes against God’s will. Sorry about that; but in my own defense I try not to lead anyone anywhere. I do ask a lot of questions, I point out fallacies or short comings in certain beliefs, I do ask people to think for themselves; so if that is heresy then it’s probable we hold different definitions of the word.
But here is the bottom line. As I read the New Testament and in particular the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, I find there a commitment to the person, a commitment to understanding, a commitment to compassion and love-not in any place do I ever find an example of where some law or some tradition or some creed or someone interpretation of a scripture becomes more important than the individual, becomes more important than love. That never happens. Jesus always puts the person first and the law second. Jesus consistently met people where they were; this meant he ate with tax collectors and prostitutes, this meant he touched and healed people that were considered untouchable and unclean, he chose his closest friends and disciples from the common working class rather than the educated elite. Jesus met everyone where they were.
How good of a job do we do at meeting people where they are? We seem to have a history of oppression when it comes to certain groups-the women in church are still oppressed in some circles, certainly we have a checkered past with people of color and the current debate raging over LGBT issues seems to be our current hot button. When an issue comes up it seems like our first thought is always toward the law, rather than toward love, our first response favors tradition over compassion.
It seems so often we forget that love is the only law we need. If we continue to divide, if we continue to split hairs, just like my example of trying to move closer to the table, we might get close, but we will never arrive at where Jesus wants us to be. As long as we continue to divide, the law of infinity stays in effect and we never fully arrive. Jesus knew this long before the concept of infinity had ever been brought forth; put simply, law divides and love unites.
So what does infinite love look like? Infinite love never ends, infinite love is unconditional, infinite love trumps the law every single time and infinite love allows for diversity, and includes everyone. Infinite love is what the woman at the well experienced; infinite love is what the woman caught in adultery experienced; infinite love is what Zacchaeus the tax collector experienced and infinite love is what the mugging victim experienced at the hands of the Good Samaritan. Infinite love is what brought the prodigal son home and infinite love is what allowed him to stay. Infinite love is what broke the chains of bondage for the Gerasene Demoniac.
And it can break our chains of bondage as well; if we will only allow it to.
Infinite love replaces infinite law.
Go in peace, Amen.