The law is a strange thing. It causes convoluted behavior. This is because the law cannot be kept. Jesus did not live from the law as is claimed by some. Jesus lived out of His Father. Jesus is our new and living way of living from our Father.
People can adopt all kinds of fictions to pretend they are keeping the law. The Pharisees did it in Jesus’ day. Peter exclaimed ‘Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?’
Legalists typically seize on one or two laws and ignore the rest. Others are remarkable inconsistent in their application. Like touting themselves as tough on crime and yet full of rationalisations and cautious caveats when their own are convicted of serious crimes.
Some make a religion pretty much out of some distinctive of their church and rely on its keeping as a kind of ‘grace.’ A contradiction if ever there was one. Some choose a law that defines their identity. They make a Messiah out or it with slogans such as ‘divine rest for human restlessness’ – words that apply only to Jesus.
We do not have to be blatantly religious to live from a culture of law but it helps. The most overtly rigid can have fundamentalist roots or are linked to a dogmatic version of Catholicism. Then again some just have calcified minds. Anything old is good, and anything new and life-giving is suspect. And so Jesus was crucified for being life.
If we are unfortunate enough to go about with an attitudinal G-clamp over our minds, intelligence will not help. If ours is the kind of religion that stems from a law-culture, we dull God’s divinity and our own humanity. It’s not chance that Cardinal Pell and His supporters have mindsets that excuse people of their particular mindset. It leads to a sense of entitlement for themselves and the abuse of others. A law orientation fosters institutionalism, ant-humanitarianism and bigotry. With some its out in the open. With others it’s well disguised.
LISTS AND ICONS
“When it comes to legalists, think of them as people with a “legal list” of rugged, religious rules designed to keep you in line, but are unable to completely carry out for themselves. The list is primarily fabricated, fluid, fickle, and fluctuates from one brand of religion to the next.”(1) ‘One brand of religion to the next’ even when we are talking ‘secular religion’.
CHRISTIANITY IS JESUS
Directly contrary to abstractionism and institutionalism, the life of God is not a list or the Ten Commandments. Neither is it a prescribed life-style or a version of one side or the other in the political culture wars. It’s more simple and more holistic than that. It’s Christ’s life as your life. By the Spirit you are the manifestation of Christ. Thus Paul writes,
‘Being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life’ 2 Cor 3.3-6 NIV.
THE LETTER KILLS
The letter is contemptuous of life. Ultimately it results in the death of our souls and the atrophy of our spirits. Its justification varies from ingenious rationalisations to Trump like nonsense. I once was unfortunate enough to sit through a sermon by the president of a legalistic denomination. It was like listening to an ideological mannequin.
The law always brings death, thus any version comes under the umbrella of the law of sin and death. The law also brings condemnation - even though there is no condemnation in Jesus - who brings forgiveness and life. Every mode of the law brings condemnation. As we have seen in recent times, the law seeks to excuse the guilty and condemns the innocent. Kepler continues,
“God has now made us to be competent ministers of a new covenant of the Spirit, not the old covenant writings that came through Moses. The written letter of the law under the former covenant had a purpose—to kill. It did it then and it will do it today. But the Spirit brings life, and it is his life written on our hearts as opposed to the commands written on tablets of stone. Paul continues this explanation with something that almost sounds like an oxymoron—the ministry of death and the ministry of condemnation.” (2)
‘In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.’John 1.4 NIV. Jesus is so LIFE that HE BECOMES YOU.
(1) Kapler, Michael C.. Clash Of The Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee . Kindle Edition. (2) Ibid. Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee . Kindle Edition.