Monday, June 6, 2011

Do Christians still need to worry about the Law?

So what does this mean for our relationship to the Law? I remember reading in Galatians and thinking it very contradictory, that Jesus said he didn’t come to destroy the Law but fulfill it, and that people who break even small commandments are damaging themselves in the Kingdom, but that Paul talks about the Law as slavery. How is Paul not teaching others to break the commandments, when he gets angry at the Galatians for thinking they should be circumcised (ie, wanting to put themselves under the Law?)

Where both agree is that observing the Law is not going to get one into heaven. That is, I think, the idea of slavery that Paul is trying to free them from. Jesus must also see that people will want to try to think that by obeying the Law they can come in to the Kingdom… why does he say what he does about the greatest and the least in the Kingdom of Heaven? Jesus seems to be saying here, obeying the Law won’t let you enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but you should still obey it. Paul says, don’t go down that road of slavery, that is denying Christ’s substitution.
One thought: Christ fulfilled the law by obeying all of it, and that we then can follow it by following Christ. This makes sense, I think… ie, Christ has taken the place of the law, and to follow him is to do what the entire law means. So following the law has become binary… you either follow Christ who follows all of it, and therefore you follow all of it, or you don’t follow Christ and you fail at following the law. That makes sense up to a point, but it doesn’t explain why Jesus says that the degree to which we follow the law will determine where our place in the kingdom of heaven is…ie, you break the least of these commandments and teach people to do the same, you will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.

I think it really comes down to faith in the Holy Spirit, and developing our power to listen to Him and obey Him. Because if Jesus embodies the meaning of the law, and if the Spirit of Jesus is living in us, then to disobey the law is to disobey the promptings of Christ and not truly to be following him, nor allowing ourselves to be changed (assuming that the Spirit really is prompting us to change). My big concern with this issue is how to prevent our idea of “the Law”—ie, right and wrong—from being dictated by the current trends of society, when the Law is no longer external but internal. Here also I think the later instruction to worry about the plank in one’s own eye before trying to pick the speck out of one’s neighbor’s eye come into play—perhaps it is up to me to make sure I am following Jesus with my whole heart and listening for the Spirit’s promptings as best I can, and if I think that my neighbor is not really doing the same, pray and ask the Spirit, who is also in him, to prompt and lead that person right, and to speak through me to that person if he decides he wants to.

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