[NOTE: This post was written last week, Monday, November 28, 2016. However, I didn’t get the chance to post it because I ended up in the hospital that evening. More on that later, though… I think this is an important post!]
Wow. What a heavy title, huh? Well, stick with me. I think you will be as blown away by this as I was.
If you’ve read here much at all, you will know I am very much a “grace and truth” person. Taken from this scripture: [notes in brackets are mine]
John 1: 14 ~ “And the Word became flesh [Jesus] and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father [God], full of grace and truth.”
I believe Jesus was more about love than law. Not that we should dismiss God’s law outright. However, Jesus valued a proper balance of grace with truth, not beating people up with truth until we feel like giving them a little grace. Not about hurting people with truth without also giving them a good dose of grace to go along with it. He did not disregard the Law, but Jesus simply loved more than He fretted about law-keeping. As our pastor started the sermon yesterday, he read from Matthew…
Matthew 12:1-2 ~ “ At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.””
He pointed out how the Pharisees’ first thought was to point out the law-breaking. They were not concerned that these men were hungry and had no other food available to them. Remember that another law in play here is the one about leaving behind any plants that are missed or any grain that has fallen during harvest in order that the needy could glean the fields and feed themselves. (Leviticus 23:22)
The first thing that came rushing to my mind is all the times, as I was growing up in a traditional, conservative Christian church, I had seen people shunned or ignored because they were not dressed like the rest of us, or because they had done things considered ‘unforgivable’ while at the same time, only moments later, hearing a sermon about how loving and kind Jesus was to all people… the drunkards and the harlots and the sinners. How He seemed to always reserve His harshest words for those in the “religious elite”, the high priests, and the religious scholars.
As a child, this always seemed so backward, but as anyone raised in this sort of environment knows, you don’t question those unspoken rules. That is frowned upon and discouraged if not outright disallowed! You just don’t question things that seem to be wrong with the status quo of the church.
Even as an adult, I went along with these sort of things. My thinking was just as convoluted as those I still love today who are so set on sticking with the man-made rules and traditions in most churches. I thought if you didn’t dress correctly, you were better off to stay home than come to church ill-dressed. If you had been in jail or were known to be “living in sin”/shacking up, etc, then you had best sit in the back if you dared to show your face at all. Don’t expect to be welcomed or even greeted in most cases.
Now, I am NOT saying that we should just ignore what the Bible clearly calls sin, but you cannot claim to “love the sinner and hate the sin” if you treat people like second-class citizens and push them to the fringe, making sure they know they’re ‘not good enough’. That was the favorite cop-out of most churches I was ever involved in…”love the sinner and hate the sin”. In theory, this is an excellent way to live, however, if you’re not willing to actually love the sinner then it becomes merely hypocrisy.
We are to hate sin just as much as God Himself hates it!! He hated it so much and loved the children He had created so much that He became flesh and submitted Himself to the cross to save us from it!! The thing we have really screwed up down here is the value God places on people (love) versus the value He places on things (law).
We think God places utmost value on His law and thus, our keeping of His law, when in reality, He values people the most. That’s us, you and me and everyone you know…and everyone I know AND all the people they know. So the essence of what Jesus came to do was not bulk up religion, not reinforce it or endorse it but to reject it, rescind it, to show us the better way. Religion is about the law. We, as our sin nature tends to do, have perverted the value of the law, putting it above love and human life. It was love that caused God to give us the law. The law is and has always been to help protect us, God’s children, His creations. It was never created to be a noose, a burden, a dead weight that makes us view life as dreary. Therefore, when it comes to a situation where it is love versus law, love always wins in God’s eyes. God created the law for man, not man for the law. He didn’t create laws first and then people to keep them. He created people first, and then laws they needed to protect them.
That’s not to say we can make excuses to discount and disregard God’s law. But, as in this instance, when it comes to our well-being or keeping a law, God will always opt in favor of our well-being, which is why He even made any law to begin with.
The example that Jesus used up there in Matthew to let the Pharisees know they were seeing things wrong was of David, when he was running from the murderous wrath of King Saul and sought shelter in a temple. He and his men were tired and hungry. The only thing available to eat was the consecrated bread which the law dictated was only to be eaten by the priests. In the presence of the priest, David and his men ate the “shew bread”, the bread blessed and set aside for the temple priests, without condemnation from either God or the priests. Nowhere in the scripture does it ever indicate or mention that God showed any displeasure or outrage at what David did in this scripture.
I had NEVER caught that part of the story. I mean, it’s right there. Plain as day. Jesus is telling the Pharisees that just as David wasn’t condemned for eating consecrated bread because his well being was threatened if he and his men didn’t feed themselves, that He and the disciples were also not condemned for picking grain to eat right there on the Sabbath because they had no previously prepared food nor place to get any food that day. It was a necessity that they eat. As strict law-keepers, the Pharisees would have rather they starved for the day instead of sustain themselves. To them, that law was more important than loving the men enough to let them feed themselves. The scripture goes on to inform us that after this, when they couldn’t prove Jesus to be wrong (because that would have meant they had to say David, the man they bragged 0f having as their ancestor, had committed a dreadful sin!) the Pharisees responded by beginning to plot how they could kill Jesus. Yeah. Law was WAY more important than Love to them.
For Jesus, LOVE is much more important than LAW.
Why has the church or we as Christians lost sight of this today? Why can’t we see that loving people is so much more important than harping on such unimportant things as how they dress or whether they attend church on a certain day, or what type of music they prefer to worship with or how their preacher dresses? Why must we focus on a person’s past when there is so much potential for their future in Christ? Why do we drive people away because they don’t fit our preferences instead of loving them as Jesus would?
Our pastor has titled this series “Reeds and Wicks” and the message yesterday “Why Christmas is Not a Religious Holiday” using this scripture, also in Matthew:
Matthew 12:20 ~ “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.”
We are those bruised reeds, the ones broken and rendered useless to the world…the wicks that are so low in the wax that we are barely able to hold the tiny flame and people will soon throw us out because we don’t produce enough light. Jesus repairs us, He makes us whole, He pours out the excess wax snuffing out our flames, He provides a use for our bent and bruised reeds. Where the world calls us worthless, Jesus calls us worthwhile. He gives us purpose and perspective. He loves us even though we’ve been stepped on or are almost to the point of drowning in the wax. He rescues us from our lowly state and not only uses us, cleans us up and gives us a purpose, but He loves us more than anyone ever will.
How can we trivialize Him by confining His love inside laws that don’t always apply? When we use the law of God to withhold the love of God, we misrepresent God! Rather than asking, like the Pharisees, “Is it lawful?”, we should ask “Is it loving?” God’s love draws in those whom God’s law has cast out. God cares more about sinners than their sins, and more about lawbreakers than broken laws.
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to endeavor to do the same. Lord, let me love like You do!