“Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:5-8, ESV).
The question of rules and laws is difficult. Without laws societies break down and survival often becomes a matter of strength and ruthlessness. But the rule of law may result in a rigid system which is void of mercy and compassion. Legalism values rules above human needs. Situation ethics and similar moral systems often lead to the suspension of law based only on subjective feelings or opinions. What is sufficient reason to “break” a rule is different for each one who faces difficulties. Is there not a reliable standard which may be enforced in all circumstances? Continue reading “The Lord of the Sabbath”
The Jews had a tradition. They thought washing one’s hands before eating bread prevented them from being “defiled” or unclean. In the thousands of years of Israel’s history, there was not one single word of this practice in the Law of Moses or any other written word of God. It was a creation of the Pharisees.
The sect of the Pharisees started out as a group of people who were determined to keep themselves separate from sin and holy. This was a good idea, but it changed over time. Ultimately, the Pharisees were more interested in making laws than obeying them. Give people power over others and sometimes they take the law into their own hands.
By the time Jesus started his earthly ministry, the Pharisees were the power in Judea. They held office in the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jews. They used their considerable influence to tell people what they could or could not do. For example, they created oral traditions that would allow people to mistreat their mothers and fathers in violation of the scriptures. In doing so, the Pharisees set aside God’s law for laws they made. Continue reading “Traditions or God’s law”
God sent his law to the patriarchs and to the Jews not to demonstrate a minimum acceptable requirement, but to help them remain holy. The law was given as the way to live before God.
Mankind promptly made a mess of God’s law. An example of how the Jews of Jesus’ day were so pitiful with their idea of the law is the definition of the word, “neighbor,” in Luke chapter 10. Continue reading “God’s law”
Is it easy to agree upon societal policies? Just consider our nation’s tensions on a number of hot button issues.
What if a nation were to attempt to conform to an even higher standard then human notions of justice and compassion? What if it sought to function as God’s holy nation, a kingdom of priests? How should such a country handle accidents, crime, property issues, worship and immorality? Continue reading “The small print on giant speakers”
Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” (John 8:46)
Jesus was unconventional in so many ways, but never more than in his claim to be sinless. It is audacious. It is something the gospel writers would not have chosen if they were merely inventing Jesus. It was an unnecessary risk. Continue reading “Who will cast a stone at Jesus?”
“Which of these three…was neighbor?” (Luke 10:36, NASB).
Did you hear about Lizzie Velaquez from Austin, Texas, a.k.a., “The World’s Ugliest Woman?” who was searching YouTube and stumbled upon a video (which had been viewed over 4 million times) urging her to kill herself because she was so ugly?
If you are a parent, this may sound familiar. After providing some counseling, you launched into a dramatic story to illustrate the consequences of making a bad decision. In Romans, Paul seems to be our parent.
“Why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3).
The distinction between law and tradition in religion is a perpetual struggle. My feeble attempt to illustrate my understanding is not without flaw, but I hope it will be of some help.
A law is something with a definitive boundary. You can put a circle around it. If something is authorized by God, then it is law. To make no attempt to conduct oneself inside that circle is to sin. To draw a new circle and do something different is to sin. To function within that circle, but with the wrong attitude, is to sin.
“The Bible [or Jesus] says you shouldn’t judge.” This is a favorite phrase of many. But what does it really mean? By way of illustration, permit me a couple paragraphs as a lead-in.
The founding fathers of America faced a great challenge with respect to law. The Declaration of Independence wasn’t hard to write. Grievances were amassed, organized, written, and delivered. It took very little time and effort, and signers were easy to find who would put their honor, blood and fortune on the dotted line when they signed their John Hancock’s on the bottom of that page. The actual independence part was very costly, yes, but the rebellion? That was the easy part. Continue reading “Jesus, and rebellion against the British”
“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4 – ASV).
I often wonder what Bible critics are reading when I read their conclusions about God, especially in the Old Testament, being a surly, arbitrary brute. I wonder how they miss the connections being made in the Old Covenant and its relationships. Had Israel kept the covenant, they would have found the highest ethical standard of living known in the ancient world, especially when compared with other such “codes.” Continue reading “Covenant faithfulness and kindness”