Tuesday, April 01, 2008

On The Law

I just finished reading a book called "The Shack" by William Young. There is a website and a blog by the author. (If you go to the blog read this story.) Anyway it was an excellent story about one man's relationship with God and really brings out the key elements of the workings of the Trinity. It has a number of real gems of wisdom and insight and I thought I'd post a couple of them here (without giving away the plot or anything).

Yes I did cry while reading it and yes I do recommend it - heartily.

On The Law
Why do you think We (God) came up with the Ten Commandments?
Actually We wanted you to give up trying to be righteous on your own. It was a mirror to reveal just how filthy your face gets when you live independently.
But there are many who think they are made righteous by following the rules.
But can you clean your face with the same mirror that shows you how dirty your are? There is no mercy or grace in rules, not even for one mistake. That’s why Jesus fulfilled all of it for you – so that it no longer has jurisdiction over you. And the Law that once contained impossible demands – Thou Shall Not … - actually becomes a promise God fulfills in you. But keep in mind that if you live your life alone and independently, the promise is empty. Jesus laid the demand of the Law to rest; it no longer has any power to accuse or command. Jesus is both the promise and the fulfillment.

Trying to keep the Law is actually a declaration of independence (from God), a way of keeping control. It grants you the power to judge others and feel superior to them. You believe you are living to a higher standard than those you judge. Enforcing rules, especially in its more subtle expressions like responsibility and expectation is a vain attempt to create certainty out of uncertainty. And contrary to what you might think, God has a great fondness for uncertainty. Rules cannot bring freedom; they only have the power to accuse.

Are responsibility and expectation just another form of rules we are no longer under?

Religion must use Law to empower itself and control the people who they need in order to survive. I (God) give you an ability to respond and your response is to be free to love and serve in every situation, and therefore each moment is different and unique and wonderful. Because I am your ability to respond, I have to be present in you. If I simply gave you a responsibility, I would not have to be with you at all. It would now be a task to perform, an obligation to be met, something to fail.

For example: friendships. There is an expectancy of being together, of laughing and talking. That expectancy has no concrete definition; it is alive and dynamic and everything that emerges from our being together is a unique gift shared by no one else. But what happens if I change that ‘expectancy’ to an ‘expectation’ – spoken or unspoken? Suddenly, Law has entered into our relationship. You are now expected to perform in a way that meets my expectations. Our living friendship rapidly deteriorates into a dead thing with rules and requirements. It is no longer about you and me, but about what friends are supposed to do, or the responsibilities of a good friend.

Responsibilities and expectations are the basis of guilt and shame and judgment and they provide the essential framework that promotes performance as the basis for identity and value. You know well what it is like not to live up to someone’s expectations. P. 202-206 The Shack


astonresearch said...

"Trying to keep the Law is actually a declaration of independence (from God), a way of keeping control. It grants you the power to judge others and feel superior to them. You believe you are living to a higher standard than those you judge."

I wonder if you thought through this statement. First of all, I hate to think what the world will be like if people don't try to keep the law, whatever that may be. Imagine a society where people stop trying to keep the prohibitive commandment against murder. The notion that trying to keep that commandment is somehow an act of declaration of independence from God, which in evangelical Christian theology is the very definition of 'sin', seems wrong-headed.

Secondly, I think misunderstood the place of the Law (Torah) within spirituality. I've been studying with an orthodox rabbi for quite some time now, and I think I am beginning to appreciate Torah observance, done with kavanah (your earlier post was interesting, btw) has got something wonderful to offer. I mean, was that not the intention of the Psalmist?

hillschurch said...

Thanks for the comment.
The statement doesn't belong to me - it was a quote from "The Shack" intended to rethink blind observance to rules. I quoted it to stimulate some thinking on the place of the Law in our lives.
The whole point I think was to have us understand the personality behind the Law and some of the meaning that underlies the giving of the Torah (which I'm sure you know is being celebrated this weekend of Shavuot).
I have also been thinking through the role of "Rule" within the community of faith and have been interacting with some others who have chosen to be Torah observant as Christians. They find observance rather liberating and a way of entering more deeply into community and a way of flowing with God's rhythms of life.

Anonymous said...

We are saved by grace through faith in Messiah Yehoshua alone - that is clear. However, the Law given to us by YHVH through Moshe is totally good for us to follow, as imperfectly as we are able. We follow the law as a response to the love shown to us by God. The 613 mitzvot were given as a blessing to the jews. We cannot be saved by our attempts at obedience, but we are called to obedience by the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit enables us with a new nature. We'll never be perfected on this side of the grass, but we should do what we can to obey the instructions given. Jesus said quite a bit about obeying the law. And in the world to come - the Messiah rules with Torah going out of Yerushalyim to ALL nations. Read Micah 4! In the end, it is Torah for everyone - Yehoshua Messiah never threw out the law - he fulfills it. For gentiles, they are called at a minimum to observe the Noachide laws, but if they want to observe Torah there is nothing wrong with that. Both Jew and gentile need to understand that they cannot be saved by the Law, but that it is good for them. The apostles list the Noachide laws for gentiles in the NT. Jesus/Yehoshua did not come to form a new religion. He came to begin the new covenant in Jeremiah 31:31 that would open up the family of YHVH to ALL peoples which has and will continue to bring His name more Glory. In the end, it's about His glory, and His love for us.