I fought the law…

… 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.

Where does that leave the Law? Is the Old Testament worthless? Are the Ten Commandments just a waste of space? In fact, did God really get it very wrong when He gave Moses the Law and had to come with a ‘Plan B’ and send Jesus?

The trite answer is that we can’t ignore it or throw it away. There is the passage in Matthew where Jesus says:

Mat 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
Mat 5:18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
Mat 5:19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Does this not stand in contradiction to Paul’s instructions? I would suggest not, for you only have to look at the number of times Jesus or His disciples broke the Law – healing on the Sabbath or speaking with an ‘unclean’ woman at a well – to see that Jesus considered the Law being followed was a distortion of the Law God had given.

{Big Picture Moment} Jesus fulfilled the Law in the sense that He was the perfect embodiment of the purpose of the Law – to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and and strength and to love your neighbour.

Going off on a small, bet relevant, tangent, it recently occurred to me that when Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was, He didn’t leave it at one, he made sure the second part was included too.

For me, that’s the crux of Christian faith and discipleship. The Law is there to point out how awful we are at following those two commandments. It’s there to demonstrate how inadequate we are at showing love, both to God and each other, by acting as a reminder of how we need to create ‘rules’ for what should be an integral part of our daily life. Because rules are ‘easy’ to follow. It’s easy to lay down limits and set boundaries, for then we can be comfortable. If we stray beyond those boundaries, then its scary – we don’t know the answers any more. But surely that’s exactly where Jesus operated? Outwith the boundaries of the Law, in the territory inhabited by Grace and love.

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