Aug 312007

I hate doing jigsaws.
It’s something deep in my psyche I reckon. I’m a bit of a control freak – ok, a lot of a control freak. But only in the sense that I like/need to know what’s going on. I don’t need to be in charge, just so long as I can see the big picture and my place in it.
Which is why I hate jigsaws. You spend all the time scouring the pieces – the minutiae – then forget what colour/pattern/feature you were looking for anyway. You only get to glimpse the big picture once in a while.
Or maybe you work the other way round – take a random piece and scour the big picture for a match. But even then you don’t get to step back and really look at the big picture – you’re looking at it too closely.
I hate doing jigsaws.
This is where, in true children’s talk fashion, I get to say, “And in a funny way, faith is just like that.”
But it doesn’t need to be and, perhaps it shouldn’t be – at least for some of the time.
One of the most satisfying things about study – Bible, theology, whatever – is that, even though you spend a lot of time looking at the fine detail (the jigsaw pieces), every now and then one of those pieces falls into place and, for a brief moment, you get to look at the big picture (the one on the box). It works the other way as well – latch on to an issue and scour scripture/tradition to see where it fits and file it away neatly in its place.
But the big picture is where we often need to be looking. To steal a line from a children’s mission we did a while ago, we need to see ‘God’s big plan for the world’. Maybe not a plan in our sense of the word, but an acknowledgement that there is a bigger purpose. We can’t just live in our own little jigsaw-piece world – we’re part of a bigger picture. God’s salvation and purpose is universal, both in the humankind and the cosmic sense. To see how we fit into that, we need to take time to look at the bigger picture.
I hate jigsaws.

Aug 302007

… and Grace won. (sneaky wee Clash reference there in case you’re wondering)

Really a follow-on thought from yesterday’s post about the Law versus Grace. I was mulling it over in the shower this morning (as one does) and had a ‘jigsaw moment’. I’m sure you know the feeling – another piece falls into place and you momentarily get a glimpse of a much bigger picture just before confusion sets in again. Well, I had one of those moments where it hit home just what the implications are of no longer being a slave to the Law. Or, perhaps more pertinently, what the implications are of being a stickler for the Law.

By Paul’s argument, if we choose to apply the Law as Law, then we are obliged to follow all of the Law. The Old Testament is, if nothing else, a record of how impossible it is to do just that. Hence Paul’s injunction that we cannot use the Law for salvation. Jesus has gained that for us. God’s Grace has given that to us. In fact, I would suggest that anyone indiscriminately or uncritically applying or ‘laying down’ the Law has rejected Grace and placed the Law in a higher position. And, quite simply, that is not the Christian gospel.

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Aug 282007

Not the film, but a random title that popped into my head when I was reading my Bible study notes.

Anyway, I found today’s reading very challenging and not a little scary. The series is on redemption and today’s passage is Galatians 5:1-12 with an emphasis on freedom from the Law. I had one of those ‘woah!’ moments as I was reading it when one of those ‘big picture’ pieces fell into place (and left me wishing it hadn’t because it means I’ll need to do some more thinking).

The particular part that has got me thinking is verse 6 “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.” Given Paul’s obvious anger in this whole passage, it’s something he’s serious about and, I guess, we should consider seriously as well. He’s basically saying that if you follow one bit of the Law, then you need to follow all of the Law and you will be judged by the Law. But Christians aren’t redeemed through the Law, rather, through Grace and faith in Jesus. That faith is demonstrated by our love for Jesus, for one another, for our world. It’s demonstrated through following the loving example of Jesus – selfless, indiscriminate, abundant, unquestioning.

So for, so easy (hah!), but the bit that I really need to spend time in prayer and reflection about is the whole idea of when do we apply ‘the Law’ and when do we respond in love? It’s that old ‘the Bible says’ chestnut. Are we applying what it says in a legalistic manner, or we applying it because it’s an example of how God wants us to behave? The obvious one is homosexuality. Condemned because the Law (the Bible) says so (arguably), yet, if we apply that Law, why not the others? Why is this one different? Is there a balance to be struck? But that’s just one small (albeit controversial) example. Does it not also spill over into the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ attitude so prevalent in churches?

More thinking required.