code-enforcement versus love (Jesus wins!)

WFPC_logoletter-i really don’t like getting up early in the morning for meetings. Especially on a Saturday, when the general idea is to start the day slowly. But 6:55 AM is when my men’s small-group Bible study meets, so 6:55 AM is when I show up at Wake Forest Presbyterian Church.

I’m always glad that I do (and I’m really glad we’re about ready to launch group number two, Wednesday evenings...).

ENCOUNTER: What goes on Saturday mornings is really more of an “encounter” with God’s word than it is a “men’s meeting;” and – in consequence – it’s also more of a discipleship event. It’s an encounter with scripture, it’s an encounter with Jesus, and it’s an encounter with my brothers in Christ.

For curriculum, we’re reading through the Gospel of Matthew, using questions and commentary from Tyndale’s Life Application Bible Studies series. This week we covered four chapters. That’s a lot of material.

Our purpose is not so much detailed analysis of short passages, as it is “let’s get slapped upside the head with a big chunk of scripture” encounters – and the word “encounter” is loaded with urgency.

IMG_1738GOD’s GOOD WORD: Today, once again, God’s word confronted, right along with comforting and challenging. We touched on most of the text but – and this happens time and again – our conversation found its way to one unifying question, and that was/is the question of freedom: Does trusting Jesus add the requirement of striving for a higher standard? or does trusting Jesus liberate?

We found the words of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 22:34-40 especially helpful:

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

CODE-ENFORCEMENT: Following legions of rules – and we discussed this in my recent post on manners and civility – is not only impractical, it tends to set people up to act immorally while still remaining within the letter of the law.

But Christ’s invitation is to an alternative life-style – a life based on the Gospel of Love. Love always puts others ahead of ourselves, and love focuses on relationships (Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends… – 1 Corinthians 13).

One of my friends put it this way, “The proscriptions don’t even exist in the universe of possibilities when the reference point is love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind… and love your neighbor as yourself.

Following Jesus frees us from proscriptive, restrictive shallow legal code and opens up the endless possibilities and depths of the ocean of love.

That’s why Jesus said things like this to the religiously legalistic: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom God before you do” (Matt 21:31).

When we allow ourselves to become immersed in the ocean of love, then we may well find ourselves swimming alongside tax collectors… and prostitutes… and _________ (fill in the blank that makes you squirm!).

Because it’s not about the law anymore, it’s about the love.

image from WFPC website
image from WFPC website

Like I said, once again I’ve been confronted by the Word of God – DEREK


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