Good day Friends! I pray your week and weekend went well in God’s grace and providence.
As I looked back on the events of this past week and last week’s post, I became saddened at the thought that so many people, including Christians, choose/have chosen to pronounce law towards others rather than gospel; discipline/judgement/hatred rather than love. Upon review of last week’s post, I couldn’t help but think about the many young women who were/are shunned and disowned by their families and society at the announcement of an unplanned teen pregnancy. Then I attended a presentation by a survivor of Residential Schools and the pain and abuse she and her family endured, and the countless other people who were deeply affected. Finally this past Saturday, our small rural community held their annual Remembrance Day ceremony to commemorate our soldiers who fought for our peace and the rights of other people and nations because of hatred acts of others. How can mankind, even those claiming to be Christians, get it so wrong?!
As a child growing up in the Church, things seemed easy; they were black and white, do this and don’t do that. However, the older I get, the more I see and experience, and the more I understand that people’s earthly lives are not black and white; each individual person is confronted with and shaped by so many experiences, some good and some bad, some self-imposed and some forced upon them. So how am I to respond to others according to God’s will. Do I proclaim the law or the gospel in order to respond to others and personally live accordingly. Although the Law and Gospel go hand in hand, my responses and actions in life are dependent on how I view and spiritually place these life experiences and events. For living by the law can produce hatred and great judgement, but living only by love opens the door to lawlessness and a denial of God’s commands. Where is the balance? Well I have come to find resolve between the two so that I am able to live my life in accordance with Christ’s words and examples, as best I can.
Top up your coffee and let me try to explain…
Law vs Gospel
Joshua 22:5 But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Galatians 2:16b-18 So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves alsoamong the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!
Galatians 3:21a Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not!
Galatians 5: 22-25 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Christ commands us to follow Him in His ways, and to love one another. From the gospels, Christ was always loving and compassionate. He raised the dead. He spoke lovingly to the Samaritan woman. He ate with tax collectors and sinners. He saved the life of a prostitute by having men reflect on their own sin before condemning the woman because of her sin. He loved each person and their faith in Him more than He hated their sin. Sure, He gently admonished people, but only after He loved them through His healing touch and compassionate words.
So what does this mean for me? For us? It means we need to love each person, wherever they are at. Unlike Jesus, for most people that He puts in my pathway, I do not know their ‘story’, and I have learned that their ‘story’ is a lot deeper than any characteristic or attitude that I experience from them. And even though I do not know their ‘story’, it doesn’t matter because I know that God does. God knows what they’ve endured in their many, or few, years of life. He does not ask me to judge them, but to love them, to share His grace and mercy, to be His light, and to personally be His arms of comfort and voice of His saving Truth. For God desires, “all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
I have become convinced of the phrase, “People don’t care what you know (or believe), until they know you care.” I also believe that in God’s patient timing, those we are loving will ask, “why are you loving me?” It is then that the sanctification of the Holy Spirit will open the windows of their heart to hear and see clearly Christ’s depth of love and salvation for them. For some, this may not occur until they are on their death bed. I also believe that no heart rests until it rests in Jesus, but that the resting of each heart is God’s responsibility, not mine. I am simply commanded to go and love and be a light of Christ to others.
However, with that being said, as scripture states, Jesus’ command to go and make disciples and to love one another does not eliminate the law. His grace and gospel does not nullify the law; it does not provide an open door for everyone to go and do and act the way they want, and to accept it all, especially in those realms that God commanded against. The law still very much provides the boundaries by which decisions and actions are chosen and lived out.
As just a simple person who loves the Lord, I have come to see the law as the curb that helps me drive forward in my own life without driving off the road to self-destruction. Each person is responsible for their own driving record. Also, the law is the mirror into which I look, that shows me how unclean I am because of my sins. The law makes me aware of my thoughts and actions that are contrary to what God commands. The law is the means by which I come to see that I am a sinner and the depth of love God has for me; that while I was (am) a sinner, Christ died for me to redeem me; died for you, to redeem you! The law is for us to reflect upon in order to see our sinfulness and our unworthiness before God, and to seek a Saviour; Him who paid the full penalty of what my sins deserve and clothes me in His purity and righteousness. Therefore the law draws me to repentance and to seek and receive forgiveness, along with peace, strength and courage from my Saviour. Therefore, the law is the commands by which I am to abide for the good of my earthly life. The law is something I hold up to myself.
My desire to fulfill God’s law and my inability to do so completely, my repentance, and my call for help are very really parts of my life in Christ and my relationship with God. With this humbling part of our relationship – God’s and mine- I have also come to know that He is gentle and patient, and he knows my weaknesses and my inability to overcome them myself. He is there to assist me when I truly seek Him for help and mercy to change.
In short, the law is the mirror by which each person sees their sin, their inability to abide perfectly to what God commands, and enlightens us to our need for a mediator, a Saviour, to redeem us back into a right relationship with Him. Therefore, do not be ashamed to look into the mirror of the law. Look into it, see your uncleanness and filth, but then let Christ cleanse you to a brilliancy that only He can. You may find that many commands are too difficult to follow; that your weaknesses are too difficult to overcome. Do not give up, or make excuses, or turn your back on them, but give those weaknesses to the Lord and ask for His strength to overcome, and be convicted and patient as God refines you, all the while using you to be His loving arms and voice to those souls he puts in your pathway.
Prayer: Dear Lord, Thank you for loving me so much that you paid the cruel price that my sin deserves, in order for me to have eternity in your presence. Help me to love others with that same love. Help me not to be judgemental, except towards myself. Yet, help me to walk in your ways according to your commands and the Ten Commandments. Help me not to diminish the importance and goodness of your law because of my own inability to understand or abide by it, or as a means to ease my conscience as societal norms turn further and further from you. Strengthen me so that I may be your light through my actions and words wherever you place me. Thank-you! In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN!
Reflection: Have you ever felt the conflict between law and gospel; the fine line between judging or loving? Reflect on that situation. What was the outcome? If you were to hold God’s law up as a mirror in front of you, what would you see in the reflection? How do you live out Christ’s command to love one another? As you go through this week, focus and reflect on when you share Christ’s love and when you feel the need to hold up His law.