Show humility and joy towards friend and stranger alike, and homage, obedience, and fealty towards every person.
- The Rule of Carthage, Irish, 7th century
“You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD.”
- Leviticus 19.32
What can we say about the Law of God?
Much, indeed. First, it is holy and righteous and good (Rom. 7.12).
Second, it teaches us the ways of loving God and our neighbors (Matt. 22.34-40).
Third, it liberates us from such things as moral uncertainty, mere self-love, and the snares of sin (Jms. 2.8-12).
Fourth, it illuminates the path Jesus walked, and we should walk as well (1 Jn. 2.1-6).
Fifth, contemplating and keeping the Law is a source both of increasing righteousness (Ps. 1) and abundant delight (Ps. 40.8).
Sixth, keeping and teaching the Law to others is the way to greatness in the Kingdom of God (Matt. 5.17-19).
And, seventh, the Law of God is greatly neglected by contemporary Christians, due in large part, to a lack of understanding concerning points 1-6 above.
Celtic Christians were serious about the Law. Emerging as they did from a society that had no written laws and was thus ever subject to changeable traditions and the will of the strong, they became eager students and practitioners of the Law of God in all its facets. Celtic Christians found in the Law a guide to loving God and men that helped enormously in civilizing the wild Irish and bringing order and justice to their nation.
Monks and other religious leaders were especially responsible to keep the Law, for they understood that the people looked to them as models of discipleship. How much did they regard the Law? How careful were they concerning all its precepts?
On one occasion, when Irish Church leaders had been summoned to Canterbury to meet with the Pope’s ambassador, they wondered whether they could trust him (the Venerable Bede reports this incident). At that time, early in the 7th century, the Irish Church did not regard itself as subject to the authority of the Roman pontiff. A loosely-coupled archipelago of monastic communities oversaw the life of faith in Ireland, and in its extensions in lands beyond.
Those summoned to Canterbury consulted a wise elder. The elder instructed them to show up at the meeting first and arrange for the papal ambassador to be seated before they entered. When they entered, the elder explained, if he stood to greet them – in accordance with the Law of God – he was a man to be trusted. If not, listen politely, but make no commitments.
As it turned out, the papal emissary did not stand, indicating that he either did not know the Law of God or did not regard it. The Law requires the people of God to honor one another, to esteem one another as better than themselves, to look out for the interests of others and not just our own interests. And that includes standing in the presence of the elders of a community. If you can’t do that as a leader, how can you expect the people following you to do any better?
The papal ambassador didn’t stand, and the Irish didn’t submit to Rome for almost another 100 years, and then, only reluctantly.
The Law of God holds the antidote to the widespread incivility of our times. It also shows the path through the tangles of justice, whether racial, economic, or otherwise. The Law of God provides a foundation and framework for building communities where love is a powerful active agent, and not merely a chimera onto which we project whatever our foolish and changeable inclinations might prescribe.
When Christians begin to get serious about the Law of God, we will discover not only important guidelines for honoring others, but the wisdom and love of God for all aspects of life in society. You cannot be filled with the Spirit, know His Presence and power, bear His fruit, or wield His gifts apart from a growing knowledge of and love for the Law of God (Rom. 8.5-9; Ezek. 36.26, 27).
The sooner we get on track with this aspect of the Spirit’s agenda, the sooner we will honor and love others in ways that refract the goodness and glory of God.
1. Why do you think we don’t hear much about God’s Law these days?
2. How could you bring more meditation on God’s Law into your walk with and work for the Lord?
Psalm 19.7-11 (St. Christopher: Beneath the Cross of Jesus)
The Law of God is perfect, His testimony sure;
the simple man God’s wisdom learns, the soul receives its cure.
God’s Word is right, and His command is pure, and truth imparts;
He makes our eyes to understand; with joy He fills our hearts.
The fear of God is cleansing, forever shall it last.
His judgments all are true and just, by righteousness held fast.
O seek them more than gold most fine, than honey find them sweet;
be warned by every word and line; be blessed with joy complete.
Teach me Your, Word, O God, and guide me into understanding Your Law so that I…
Help for working your Personal Mission Field
Don’t forget to listen to this month’s Personal Mission Field Workshop. It’ll make you a little spongier (click here). Pick up your free copies of our books, Joy to Your World! and The Gospel of the Kingdom by clicking here. And if you want to know more about why the Law of God matters for your Personal Mission Field, order a free copy of our book, The Ground for Christian Ethics, by clicking here.
Please prayerfully consider making a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe at this time. Only God can move you to do this, and we believe He intends to support this ministry from within the ranks of those who are served by it. If this includes you, please seek the Lord in this matter. You can click here to donate online with your credit card or through PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.
T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Ó Maidín, p. 68.