Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Law Is The Easiest Thing In The World To Live By

The easiest thing in the world to do is follow rules. Some people are naturally rebellious and think they hate rules or anything that hinders their freedom, or what they consider to be freedom, but the truth is most of us feel more comfortable with rules. There is no guessing at what is expected of us. In most societies laws exist to keep everything fair and balanced so that each citizen feels protected and equal to every other citizen. In a few societies the laws are repressive and stack everything in favour of a small group of elitists. Unfortunately, what is true in society is also true in the Church.

Some people would point out that God has his laws too and that we are governed by them. This is true if we decide to try to live according to the the law instead of by God's grace, and some churches decide to go this route. They concentrate on the "do's" and "don't's" and cause Christianity to become a repressive thing. They shackle people to a list of expectations that are meant to conform instead of being transformed by the Holy Spirit. They do this because it is easier to live by rules than by grace. It is less frustrating and it is easier to control people. If I were to give you a list of 10 rules to follow and then told you that the alternative is to be governed by love you would probably choose the rules because they are easier to follow. Love takes us to a greater depth and demands much more of us than rules could eve provoke in us.

Christians are a new creation, a people governed by grace that has come from God's love. It doesn't mean that the rules have disappeared only that they have become more natural to us because, by love and the Holy Spirit, they are now written on our heart. We are governed and guided by two very simple commands that take us to the root of God's laws, that sum up all the teachings and desire of our Lord:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Luke 10:27)

Allow the Holy Spirit to apply these to your heart and see what happens to your actions. It means that you would never do anything to hurt or offend any person because love demands the best from us. And if we did happen to harm or offend we would be quick to seek forgiveness. This is by far better than one hundred thousand rules because rules can't force you in the matters of the heart, such as forgiveness. Rules can't force you to forgive a neighbour for harming you but love does. Love causes us to show mercy and grace to others because we have experienced these same things from God's great love for us.

We would use the Bible's definition of love:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

This is the love that Jesus demonstrated to us and which the Holy Spirit longs to produce through us. Without understanding the Word of God in this perspective we can misunderstand much which has been written for us. A simple example: it is in this context of love that we must understand the heart of the Spirit as we read the preferences of Paul to Timothy:

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. (1 Timothy 2:9-10)

People who are focused on the law grab hold of these instructions and shackle people with rules that crush the Spirit of grace. But read from a place of love overflowing with grace we can see it in a different light. Paul didn't want women to be caught up with the frivolous things of society. We all know women who spend a fortune on make-up and clothing and who spend hours "getting beautiful". Paul is teaching here that, as Christians, we have a different set of values aside from the world, where being kind and loving others should be our priority. You tell me which perspective would produce fruit that would be more pleasing to God: to be shackled to a law that states no braiding of the hair, or to be governed by a heart of love that provokes us to care for others?

The easiest thing in the world is to be governed by a set of laws. It only costs us effort, no thought needs to be put into it. It is a far greater challenge to be governed by God's love which demands the best of us. Of course we are surface dwellers, liking to keep things simple and non-evasive. We will always go with the easier option and fail to come even remotely close to understanding God and his ways. But if you are a brave soul who has been touched and moved by the love of God; if you can feel that stirring in you, that call to dive into the depths of his love, then you will be one who allows that love to guide your every thought and action. You will know what it means to consider others more important than yourself, to promote others ahead of your own needs. If you give yourself over to this love then you will understand Philippians 2 and will gladly take on the role of a servant. All that remains at the end of the day is faith, hope and love and the greatest of these three is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

So enough of lives governed by oppressive rules in the Church. Let there by freedom in the Spirit according to God's mercy and grace. Allow love to bind you to the heart of God.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pastor Paul thanks for your great reflection! I was just having a conversation regarding God's grace last night. I love living in freedom and your spirit led explanation of Paul's letter to Timothy was very encouraging.

I wonder how much more we could advance the Kingdom of God through love not law?