Saturday, May 19, 2012

Utterly Sinful

I have a love/hate relationship with rules. Lately I'm coming to like them less and less. My nature is one of rule keeping, but the more I see what a set of rules have done in the Kingdom of God, the Body of Christ, the more I come to dislike them.

Rules have a purpose, an important purpose. Paul writes that the purpose of the law it to point out what is sin so that sin might become "sinful beyond measure" (Romans 7:12-14). (Some versions say "utterly sinful" which sounds like a Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream flavor. I looked. It's not.)

Let's say I'm driving very fast on the highway and get stopped by the patrolman. If there is not a speed limit sign, I can make a case that I didn't know how fast to go. But once I know what the limit is, I am bound to uphold that law. The spelling out of the law turns something that is inadvisable (going very fast) into something that is a transgression.

Paul said "I delight in the law of God, in my inner being" (Romans 7:22). The law helps us get closer to God, not because we keep it perfectly but because it shows our failings and our need for a Savior. The law tells us what sin is but not how to correct it. When we encounter the law, we realize that we have fallen short. When we falter we are out of relationship with God if we are on our own. But if we choose to put on Christ, we have grace and mercy that brings us closer to God.

Thinking about all of this more, I guess I would say that I love the laws of God because they help show me how to be closer to Him. While there may be the occasional disagreement between us, I know he has my best interests and heart and generally knows what He is doing. What I seem to dislike is the laws of men especially when they are put forward as the laws of God. This is what Jesus woe'd the Pharisees for (Matthew 23). This is what Paul says has "no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh" (Colossians 2:20-23).

I make plenty of laws for myself and my family but I have neither the responsibility nor the right to make any laws binding on other Christians much less non-Christians. I tend to act much more conservatively than I believe, and it is often a struggle for me not to look down upon people who have different rules about media, smoking, drinking, church attendance, cursing, etc. But others can walk closer to the line than I do without danger. Others must stay further back. In some cases I am the weaker brother. In some cases I am the stronger brother. I get into trouble when I think I am the stronger brother but I whine and complain as if I were the weaker brother.

The law misused can be a great hindrance to those seeking Jesus (Matthew 23:13). Let us hold to the laws of God, put off the laws of men, and in all things show the love of Christ. May the Spirit give us discernment to know the difference.

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