Friday, June 16, 2006

Law and Grace

At the Bible study I go to on Thursdays, we've been going through James. Now I know what some of you are thinking, but no, I am not going to get into the whole "faith without works is dead" thing. What intrigued me about James was his use of the term 'law' in his letter. You can look for yourself if you want details (it's not a long book) but just for an overview, he basically says you should follow the law "do not be hearers who forget but doers." From an exegetical point of view one would do themselves a service not to pick apart James as they would a letter from Paul. James has a bit more of a shoot-from-the-hip type of approach and can't really be held up to the same word for word scrutiny of Paul's works. I am in no way denying the authority of this text, I'm simply saying that as a writer, he's not Paul.
Back to my point, the book of James really got me thinking last night about the post resurrection relationship to the law. It is by all accounts different than the relationship between the law and Moses, but how exactly? Paul uses some very strong language in Romans as well as other letters saying that we are no longer under the law, that we are dead to the law and alive in Christ, and that Christ is the end of the law. I could keep listing similar verses that, at first glance, give an image of early Christians dancing around Christ whose house had just landed on the law causing its feet to curl up under the house, striped socks and all. But what are we to make of Christ's promise that he was not here to abolish the law? and what of the book of James? and what about Paul's own words that we do not overthrow the law but rather we uphold it?
These were some of the thoughts I was pondering on the way home from Bible study last night and while I was thinking about these things something clicked. God took pity on me and gave me an analogy that made it all make sense. So let me set this up, I was in my car (listening to Waterdeep I think) and I was thinking about how we are justified by grace and how our life in Christ moves us toward Sanctification. At that moment the thought popped into my head; justification is being given a job (despite that fact that we are unqualified) and Sanctification is our vocation. Our life's work, by the grace of God, is to become holy. Then in the next second another thought popped up; the law is like school and being under Christ is like having a job.
Spelled out it goes like this: in school, we learn things for the sake of the things themselves because a teacher told us to. We learn multiplication so that we can multiply, we learn words so that we can read, etc. We do our calculations on worksheet after worksheet for no other reason than to learn how to do them (point being that these worksheets aren't being sent off to NASA as calculations for the next rocket; they have no outside purpose). We take tests, we are told to do things that we wouldn't do in the real world (I don't think that French diplomats are playing Pirate Bingo with French vocabulary words), and we constantly repeat things all so that we can learn the rules and processes of these studies. Most importantly, we fail. We make mistakes and are never perfect, no matter who we are (this part of the analogy gets a little thin with grade inflation being what it is in American schools, but if schools were doing what they were supposed to, this would be the case). I can think of one example of a friend of mine, lets call her Calli, who is an incredibly bright girl. She got a full ride to college and is one of my first go-to people for questions on literature or grammer. But despite her brilliance she struggled unbelievably in high school in an advanced placement chemistry class. No matter how hard she tried, how many ours she studied, how many times she went to the teacher for help, she couldn't get it quite right.
This is what the law does. It first of all shows us that we are ignorant and that we are failures, it shows us that there is perfection out there and shows us what it looks like (mostly to serve the first purpose), and it shows us how we can be good and what things we need to do to be good.
Now to grace. When Christ died for us and made us sons and daughters, it is like he gave us a job. Now in this job we use the things that we learned in school (the law) but we no longer do math for math's sake, we do it to serve a greater purpose! We know the rules and practices of our trade and no longer have to perform the self serving exercises that we did in school. At times we may be reminded of these rules and people may correct the things that we do, but it is not because we are in school and that we have to do things a certain way for their own sake, but because they are essential to the job. For example, you are at work and someone tells you that you didn't tally up the payroll checks right and the outcome was wrong. That would be valid. Now if someone told you that you need to calculate something a certain way, not because you were wrong (you infact have started using a more efficient computer program to do it) but simply because they didn't learn it that way, then that would be invalid.
So the law is still here and we still follow it, but not for it's own sake. Rather by following Christ we automatically are fulfilling the law. If I may use another example, I do not run a race for the sake of running a straight line, but by running the race I am in fact running in a straight line. When Paul tells us that Christ is the end of the law, he does not mean that the law is no more, but that the law leads to Christ who is its ultimate end (as in means to an end). It is an eternal relationship.
So let us try to not be so quick to throw around words like "legalist" or "pharisee." The law is still a part of our Christian walk. True we are no longer under it but, by being under Christ, we still uphold it, and when we do not uphold the law, it is a sign that we are straying from our path with Christ.

Dan, 7:06 PM


I ahve a whole buch to say on this topic... but I wont.


Blogger iggy, at 9:15 PM  
wat's spel chek?

Blogger iggy, at 9:16 PM  

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