I've heard a lot of talk lately about getting back to basics of Scripture, living according to the fundamentals of God's Law, and avoiding God's fiery wrath and devastating judgement:
"Sin is death!"
"A blazing arrow is pointed at your heart!"
"No soup for you!"
...Oh, wait a minute. That's something else.
God's will, we're told, is spelled out in the Old Testament, yet when reading the violent imagery of a vengeful Deity out to destroy all vestiges of sin, it's easy to become terrified, not just of God, but the demoralizing task of obedience. Especially when we're also told that a single transgression is sufficient to incur mayhem and fury.
For angelic spirits, observance may not be daunting, but for us puny, flesh-inflicted, finite human beings, the problem of the commandments is simple, yet profound: There are just too many of them! Enough to drive a person nuts.
According to Talmudic tradition, the Torah contains 613 commandments.
613 fundamental laws to be strictly enforced.
I can't remember how many wheels are on a tricycle!
Some rabbis insist that the actual number is not that high since history has prevented the observance of all 613, especially since the destruction of the Second Temple and a number of Israel-specific rules. However, even eliminating those few, there are still A LOT of commandments for "fundamentalists" to remember, let alone adhere to.
And if only one sin is enough to condemn a person, there really will be "no soup for us."
What to do? What to do?
Thank goodness for the New Testament where the teachings and life of Jesus supplies a perfect remedy: Take those 613 laws and smoosh them down into one.
Not one sentence.
Here's how it happened.
The legal scholars/rulers/doo-doo heads of Jesus's time decided to test his knowledge one day by asking a loaded question: "What is the greatest commandment?"
Surprisingly by today's standard, he did not refer to any of the prohibitions about sexual conduct, cloth composition, or the consumption of shellfish. Instead, he replied, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
So why did I just say one word when Jesus said there are two commandments? Note that his two commandments have one common directive, the directive he preaches throughout the whole of his ministry: love.
Love our neighbors.
Earlier in his teaching, he even said, "Love your enemies." (Matthew 5:44)
So basically...fundamentally...everything we need to know, everything we need to do, the only law we're called to obey, the one upon which all law is built, comes down to that one word: love.
Thus, when we love, we follow God's Law. God's happy. We're happy. Life is wonderful.
When we don't, no soup for us.
That simplicity saves a lot of wear and tear on the cranium. Rather than struggling to remember each and every one of the 613 laws, before acting, we need only ask, "Is this love?"
I'm all for it. Being a true fundamentalist is a good thing.