What About The Law

Many Christians today don’t think they should follow the law, because they reason, they are covered by the blood of the lamb, and therefore are not in need of the law. We don’t need to follow the “Jewish” laws, because that’s legalism, and isn’t legalism what Christ taught against, when he called the lawyers and teachers of his day hypocrites?

Is this, in fact, truth, or just something we want to be true, something we tell ourselves in order to justify our own idea of what God’s plan entails? What about the Ten Commandments? Christians certainly believe in those. Are they not a part of the law? Christ himself said that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matt 5:17). In fact, he goes on to say that “not one pen stroke of it would pass away until God’s purposes were complete.”

So what about the law, and what does it mean to be under the law? I heard an excellent example the other day from Adam at The Parable of The Vineyard YouTube channel, and it went something like this:
When you drive your car down the street and you go the speed limit you are abiding by the law. But let’s say you roll through a 25 mph school zone at 35 mph and you get pulled over. The police officer gives you a ticket, and a summons to appear in court. You are now no longer abiding by the law, but are under it. You can only be under the law, when you violate it and a penalty has been assessed, in this case a fine.

So, let’s also say that when you get to court, a concerned parent from the school offers to pay your fine, and all he asks in return is that you abide by the law, and not speed in the school zone. The judge then releases you, and are once again living according to the law. Now, when you leave the court, do you immediately go out and race through a school zone again, or do you think of the concerned parent who paid your debt?
Here’s the paradox: If we live by the law, we are not under it. It is only when we break the law that we find ourselves under it, because breaking it, like living by it, has consequences.

This is how it is with Christ. We acknowledge that he paid the penalty for us, but does that mean we are free to ignore the law, say that it doesn’t matter, because Jesus paid and I don’t have to? He told the adulteress, when all her accusers had disappeared, “Go, and sin no more.”

God’s commandments are not an arbitrary set of rules that we can follow or not according to our own desires, but an expression of the attributes of love, God’s love for us. In total, he gave Israel, his set-apart people, 613 commands. Of those 613 rules to live by, He wrote the first 10 with his own hand, which suggests they must be pretty important. In fact, all 613 can be encapsulated in those first ten. They are how we show God our love, and how we can also reflect His love to others. And, the ten can also be subdivided into just two, the two Christ spoke of in Matthew 22, when he said all the law could be summed up by this: Love God, and love your neighbor.

“Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” One to four are all about loving God.

1. You shall have no other Gods before me. Number one is about loyalty: Love is Loyal.
2. You shall not make for yourself graven images, no idols that you might bow down to or serve. Number two is about faithfulness: Love is Faithful.
3. Don’t take the name of the Lord your God in vain, don’t misuse it, do not bring God’s name to naught. Number three is about reverence: Love is Revenant.
4. Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. Time set-apart on a recurring and regular basis to spend with God. Number four is about intimacy: Love is Intimate.

“And the second is like unto it; love your neighbor as yourself.” Six to ten are about loving your neighbor.

5. Honor your mother and father. Show them you are grateful for all they have done for you, indeed given up for you, and that you value their guidance. Number five is about respect: Love is Respectful.
6. Do not commit murder. This one seems straight forward, right? But it’s not because it also applies to gossip as gossip is, in reality, a form of murder, since it assassinates character. Number six is about harmlessness: Love is Harmless.
7. You shall not commit adultery. Keeping sacred the special bond of marriage that is the foundation of the family unit. Number seven is about purity: Love is Pure.
8. You shall not steal. Taking what does not belong to you is the epitome of selfishness, and emphasizes getting rather than giving. Number eight is about generosity: Love is not selfish, but Generous.
9. You shall not bear false witness. Don’t speak falsely, lie, speak unjustly, or devise ways to deceive others. Number nine is about truthfulness: Love is Truthful.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or goods. We should not crave nor desire what is not ours. Number ten is about contentment: Love is Content.

Christ tells us in John 14:15, “If you love, keep my commandments.” 1 John 2:5 says that if we keep doing what he (Jesus) says, then love for God has truly been brought to its goal in us, and we are also told in 1 John 5:3 that loving God means obeying his commands, and that his commands are not burdensome.

~SLM

About Goats

In the parable of the sheep and goats, we are told that when the Son of Man comes in his glory, all the nations will be gathered before him, and he’ll separate everybody from one another on his right and left, like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. Then he lists the things that landed them among either the sheep or the goats, and the interesting thing is the list is exactly the same, except team sheep did the things he listed and team goats did not.

The thing about goats is this: They don’t know they’re goats. They go about their daily lives thinking they know who they are and where they stand in God’s eyes. They go to church almost every week, and they remember to say a prayer when they need something. They give their old clothes to Planet Aid and might even put a few bucks in the big red kettle at the Holidays to, you know, help out the needy. But, they don’t get up close and personal with it. They don’t act as if their life depends on it. Matthew 7:21 says, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, only those who do what my father in heaven wants.” What God wants is for us to “love Him with all our hearts, our minds, our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourself.”

What makes us sheep or goats is whether or not we are willing to show kindness to the person on the street corner holding a cardboard sign, to buy them a “Happy Meal” or a bottle of water, or warm coat to wear when it’s below freezing outside. It’s whether or not we’re willing to stike up a conversation with someone we dont know, but looks like they could use a friend, and perhaps buy them a coffee, or whether we find time to spend with someone who is ill, diabled or in prison. It’s about our actions, about having compassion on those around us, about helping the poor schmuck lying in the ditch, robbed and half beaten to death, instead of passing by on the other side of the street, so we can feel justified in our inaction, because, you know, we don’t really need to get involved with all that drama anyway!

God lists the attributes that make us sheep in his eyes. He tells us to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, care for the sick and visit the prisoner, not because he wants to show us how to save ourselves – His grace and His mercy are sufficient for our salvation – but because it’s what He would do. Lutheran theologian and Nazi dissident, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “God turns toward the very places from which humans turn away,” and it occurs to me that when we do these things, it’s not so much about loving those in need, but about loving God by our interactions with them. We do them to show God how much we love and care for Him, and in so doing, we automatically love our neighbor as ourselves.

~SLM

A Prayer for Love

As if my year-long (and I suspect much longer) commitment to Proverbs wasn’t enough, I’ve recently begun an additional study of Deuteronomy, and this prayer was on my heart this morning…

Heavenly Father, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, fill my heart Your loving presence. Give me ears to hear and eyes to see that I may live in Your commandment, loving you with all my heart, all my soul and all my might. Bind Your love upon my heart so that I may conscientiously talk of it when I sit in my house, when I walk by the way, when I lie down and when I rise up, diligently showing Your love to those I meet through word and deed.  Amen.

~SLM