Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M.
Christ said, “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12). This idea that God’s law pertains to how we treat others was later reiterated by St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians when he wrote: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5:14).
We know these statements aren’t telling us to ignore all other laws because Christ also said, “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Therefore, we must see Christ’s words as a lens through which to interpret the law. When we do this, it opens our eyes to God’s beautiful plan of love for humanity.
The Ten Commandments provide an excellent opportunity to apply Christ’s wisdom to our interpretation of God’s law. Many in today’s society look upon the Commandments as a set of strict rules utilized to condemn people for wrongdoing. But when seen through the lens presented to us by Christ, they become a trustworthy and benevolent guide through life’s trials.
For instance, we are commanded not to do certain things, like steal, kill, covet, commit adultery, or bear false witness. These commandments are all about loving our neighbor and treating them as we would want to be treated. So, we can see why the love of neighbor sums up the law, and we can see the wisdom in the law being all about our relationship with others. It is also evident that the law guides us towards a fruitful life because no one who wrongs others could possibly be happy.
The other set of rules in the Ten Commandments relates to respect for God. We are told not to take His name in vain, to keep holy the Lord’s Day, and not to worship false gods. We are also told to honor our parents. This relates to our respect for God because respect for one’s parents is the first way we learn to respect the order God intends for the world. We are given these commandments because God wants us to avoid the misery that results from bad decision-making. He wants to be our guide and commands us to keep Him as our beacon and lodestar, lest we be led astray.
It’s also important to consider what Christ means in saying He came to fulfill the law because sometimes we need a path back to communion with God and neighbor. Christ fulfills the law by showing us the way of mercy. In the Beatitudes, Christ says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Here is another aspect of God’s law relating to the command to treat others as we would want to be treated. For who among us would not want to be forgiven when we seek mercy for our faults?
Christ’s command to show mercy reveals the heart of God because we’re made in His image and are constantly being called to renew God’s likeness within ourselves. Therefore, when we are told to be merciful, we can take consolation in knowing that God is merciful. So, Christ has provided us with a lens through which to see the law as being like a treasure map, drawn for us by a loving God, who desires nothing other than to lead us to true and lasting happiness.