Wednesday in the Third Week of Lent

by Peter Clark

All three readings for the day have to do with “the law.” In Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people that the laws he has given them are from God and following them is a precondition to their living in the promised land. The psalm exhorts the people to listen to these teachings and pass them down. And finally Jesus makes it clear that people should continue to obey the Mosaic law.

So what does the law mean to us? Is it just the Ten Commandments? Some of those, like refraining from murder or theft, aren’t too hard to live by. On the other hand, today we have a bit of trouble with the one about adultery, and the prohibition against “coveting” is pretty hard to stick to in a consumer society. Perhaps the injunction that we “should have no other God before me” is the most difficult of all if we view idolatry broadly. People and things can so easily become “graven images.”

Although in practice we have revised our interpretations of some of the law, I think we still feel that God has set an ethical standard for us. We still want to live up to that standard and to teach our children what is right. This law, however we understand it, is a deeply ingrained gift. And as difficult as is it to live up to God’s standard, the good news is that even when we fail to do so, there is something called forgiveness.