The psalmist wrote, “Your laws are righteous forever. Help me understand so I can live!” – Psalm 119:144
This week – as you can read in my discussion of Romans 13 – the idea of “God’s Law” has been rattling around in my cerebrum and my soul.
I’ve really found the conversation quite liberating. Then this morning, when the Psalm 119 reference popped up in my daily Upper Room devotional, I realized this is more than just a passing thought, it’s a deepening and widening theme that warrants still more reflection.
“Help me understand so I can live!” Understanding how God’s law shapes us and liberates us is a huge component of, “The life that is truly life,” and “Living like we mean it!.” I let the psalmist’s exclamation have some room to bounce around in my spirit, and my thoughts keep returning to a movie Rebekah and I watched together Thursday evening.
THE LAW OF LOVE and THE CHURCH: “Heaven is for Real,” recounts the true story of a minister who finds himself struggling to process his young son’s profound experience of heaven, after he almost died during emergency surgery.
For me, the meat of the story wasn’t so much what happened to the kid as what happened to the church. Some people got caught in the snare of trying to line up other people’s experiences with some kind of a check-list, leading to judgment, distrust, fragmentation, alienation, and the destruction of community.
What healed the church was not the preacher doing a better job of meeting other people’s expectations; it wasn’t the church members lining themselves up with “proper doctrine;” and it wasn’t everyone either getting their thoughts and opinions in lockstep or splitting off to start their own version of church. It wasn’t any of those things…
- It was a case of, “Your laws are righteous forever. Help [us] understand so [we] can live!” – Psalm 119:144
- And it was a case of, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” – Romans 13:8
JESUS: This law business has been both simplified and tightened up by Jesus. It’s been tightened up inasmuch as Christ consistently pointed out how completely impossible it is to earn our way into relationship with God via rule-keeping. It’s been simplified in that Jesus stands in the gap on our behalf, and offers us this incredible opportunity:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. – John 3:16-17
Now we are subject only to the law of love. Jesus pointed out that the evidence of this is not conformity, or uniformity, or rule-keeping, or an error-free belief-system. No, it is love:
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35
That’s the message of “Heaven is for Real,” and it’s the message of Jesus for the church today. – DEREK