This week in Children’s Church we continued our catechist study of the Ten Commandments:
Q: What is the essence of the Ten Commandments?
A: The essence of the Ten Commandments is that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind, and that we love everyone else as we love ourselves.
A meditation on this truth deepens our appreciation for the demands and beauty of the moral law. The aim of the law is not simply to demarcate boundaries of behavior but to establish a profound connection and commitment to God and each other. That love for God is all-encompassing and all-consuming and that love for others goes beyond normal capabilities of empathy; it is an impossible love, a love that sacrifices the lover.
Legalism, then, takes on the form of the law without its essence. It poses as an obsession with accountability to the law—but is actually a reduction of it.
Antinomianism, conversely, seeks to claim the essence without any form or accountability. Again, it reduces the robustness of the love by compromising on the law that expresses it. Both stratagems betray the law by making it within our reach whereas the very nature of the law is that it is holy—that is, in a sphere outside our natural reality.
This is worth remembering when making our own demands of children. Are our aims basically better behavior, ease of life, future worldly success? Or are we, in fearful prayer and compassion, seeking to position them for that holy connection? Only when we ourselves understand and obey the moral law better and better, when we disappear in its love, can we re-present it to our kids in a way that is wise and right.