Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Law of God (Part 2) by Linden Malki

Jesus grew up with the Law-but He was harassed and crucified in the name of the Law.
The early Church struggled with the issue of Law, and there there is still no universal agreement on the place of Law in the life of a church and people.  The break with rabbinical Judaism came over the issue of Law.  The basic moral and ethical principles of all three Abrahamic traditions are very similar; the differences are in the details,  interpretations, and custom.  The huge differences between Jesus' teaching and the codes of Moses and Muhammad is in attitude. Observant Jews and Muslims try very very had to do it all by the Book and the associated traditions.
 Jesus knew and respected the Law, but He recognized and dealt with the knowledge that God's creation--free people-- are not able to fully and perfectly live up to it. 

When we are first told of a new rule, regulation or requirement, what is our reaction to it? First, it depends on where it comes from.  Do we respect the source? Do we agree with and want to cooperate with it? If so, all is good and we have few problems going with the program.  Think back to Abraham: God came to him and offered him a relationship and a covenant.  God chose Moses and Joshua, and they established the relationship between God, and the people they led, and then asked the people to ratify the covenant they were being offered.

There is always the choice to reject the rules. It might be ignorance, stupidity, laziness,  defiance,  rebellion, and any of the "seven deadly sins" :pride, envy, wrath (anger), sloth (laziness), avarice (greed), gluttony, lust.  It can be outside influences--there are personal, social and spiritual forces that are do not have our best interests at heart.  As individuals and a community what do we do with this rejection?  All three traditions believe that the ultimate Judge is God.  There are examples in Scripture of God's judgment being immediate and unmistakable.  There are times when the real world provides consequences. Political or social  authorities may be called upon to provide consequences.  In some cases, individuals feel called upon to provide consequences. Part of the job of parenting is to teach and enforce appropriate rules. Church communities have had varying responses to this question--some church communities have had the politcal power to supply judgment. The main the  principles of  God's Law are necessary for a safe and civilized society, and require enforcement as the community. One question is drawing this line--different communities draw it in different places, and this there are "hot button" questions we face in today's world as to community enforcement vs personal responsibility vs letting God deal with it, now or later.

St Paul, who was the equivalent of a PhD in Jewish Law, spent his early adulthood as an "enforcer" of what he believed to be his responsibility to God. I believe that the reason that God chose to change his life was that He recognized that Saul of Tarsus truly wanted to obey God. Getting to know Jesus as the Son of God taught him that Law was inadequate to bring us into harmony with God; that Jesus was the Way to overcome what a hymnist called "our bent to sinning" and to be released from the consequences of our inevitable failures.  Jesus pointed out that there were two Commandments underpinning all Law: totally loving God and loving our neighbors. Committing to the Godly way to live by both of these changes us for eternity.

(Part 2 of 3) 

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