In the front window of our home are myriad potted plants. My favorite container is cylindrical and tall—its height about twice its consistent diameter: not squat and flared upward like most. The pot’s patterned relief accentuates the contrast of its pale greens and muted browns. The plant extruding above its rim emphasizes the vessel’s shape and color—forest green leaves creating a well-defined canopy, also cylindrical from bottom to top, about twice as tall as wide.
Moses receives rigid tablets with equally rigid constraints. Don’t have other gods, carve idols, profane Yahweh’s name, or work on his day. Don’t murder, cheat, steal, lie, or covet. The only positive imperative among them—honor your parents—explicitly predicts death for whoever does not do it. Were they carved on a cylinder, the commands’ constraints would be twice as high as the space to live them out; that is, it would be impossible to fulfill the commandments within the commands, proven by every generation and individual since Adam and Eve.
Near the beginning of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18).
Extruding above the rim of the Old Covenant’s muted restraints is the richly verdant, new canopy of Jesus’ Covenant—its shapes and colors replacing dead restrictions with live fulfillment. Loving and giving do not simply oppose hating and taking. They bud, grow, and flourish above the rigid emptiness of not hating and not taking.
This week, may our loving and giving flourish out of the dead tree and opened rock grave from which Jesus’ love gave life.