Love and the law: Best friends?

I sat in a hospital waiting room and heard the strangest thing.

Two women were arguing religion.  They were strangers to each other and soft-spoken and incredibly gracious.

It was like watching a slow-motion pillow fight.

The first must have been reading something, for she spoke out into the air a comment about the Ten Commandments. The second, on the other side of the room, looked up from her magazine and said, “Christ is the end of the law for those who believe.”

The first said, “Excuse me?”

The second woman repeated what she had said, and added, “It’s what the New Testament says now that Jesus has died for our sins.”

The first politely responded that, “Well, this list of commandments is so important, the classrooms of our schools ought to post them on their walls and every courtroom should display them.”

She said, “I try to keep them every day.”

The second woman said, “The just shall live by faith.”

This civilized debate went back and forth like this until the nurse called one of their names, and since it’s hard to carry on an argument alone, the other went back to her magazine.

Those who know me will be amazed to learn what I did through all this: absolutely nothing.  Their talk was private and did not need my heavy-handed involvement.

After giving it some thought, I think I know who was right and who was wrong.

They were both right; both were wrong.

True enough, we are no longer under the Old Testament’s laws commanding holy days and animal sacrifices and rituals. But we are not through with God’s laws by a long shot.

Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15; see also 14:21,23, and 15:10,14).

He was not of course referring to the Ten Commandments, but to His own teaching.

Jesus asked His disciples, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not the things I say?” (Luke 6:46).  Discipleship demands obedience, otherwise it is nothing.

At the same time, it is indeed true that “the just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4 and Romans 1:17).  It is true that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).  We are saved and saved eternally by the work of Christ, not by our own efforts.

But we are saved “in order to bring forth good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

Let’s see if we can sort this out.

Do you recall the story of the woman who was married to a cruel, controlling tyrant?  He gave her a long list of daily duties she was expected to perform.  One day the man died, and in time, she married a nice man whom she loved with all her heart.  Sometime later, while going through some old things, she came upon that list of her former duties.  As she glanced over it, she realized that what the first man had required of her as duty she was now doing for her new husband from love.

Under the former system, when we failed to measure up to God’s standard–that is, when we sinned–we broke His law. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”

Now, in Christ Jesus, when we fail to measure up, we break His heart.

And that, I submit, is a far more serious matter.

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