The following is the first section of a series discussing grace and the implications of it. I want this to be more of a discussion than we usually have. This is not a claim that what is said here is the end-all-be-all rather we want to kick around how this is playing out across the church universal.
Recently I was re-watching The Matrix and was struck again by some of the conversations that take place. When Morpheus and Neo sit down and Neo is given the choice between his present realities and to know “the wool that has been pulled over your eyes your entire life”. Morpheus says something to the effect of, “You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.” This may be the best scene to summarize what is happening in the church as whole right now.
Unlike Neo, I know what is wrong. Jesus is messing me up. Challenging me that I am to take his message entirely seriously.
I have thought that maybe others were noticing it too, much akin to the story of the emperor with no clothes; however, there are many who are simply oblivious to this. In a word, it is the lack of love. It is a lack of grace.
In a recent meeting- regarding youth ministry- someone summarized my thoughts for me like this, “I believe what he [Devin] is saying is that we gave people fairy tales and myths to entertain them as children, then moral teachings to conform them as teens, and when they get to their 20’s and 30’s we tell them that it is a relationship. And they either didn’t come back or don’t believe us because we already lied twice.” That meeting did not go well.
Sometimes I wonder if we really want to be like Jesus. Really? The guy is a terrible houseguest, runs off potential followers (the rich young ruler), and insults the religious establishment continuously. We say that we would like to follow his example and obey his commands- but many times disagree what that looks like.
What did Jesus command, just to clarify? When the teacher of the law is asked, he responds; “To the love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.” So the law is the law of love… not the Old Testament. Chapter five in the letter to the Galatians also addresses this in discussing the fruit of the Spirit. The verse ends with “against such things there is no law”. There is no law against loving God and loving your fellow humans.
Furthermore, we are assuming a great deal in stating that need to keep some list of man-made rules. Romans 8:1-2 states, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." … So do we have to figure out a new group of rules to keep? Or do we simply embrace the simplicity of the fact there is no longer any condemnation for the violation of the law, through and because of the blood of Jesus Christ?
It may be so hard for us to embrace this reality because there is then removed measurable achievements of thinking we “conquered” this sin or another and not viewing sin as our former selves in entirety. We are baptized fully into Christ- not one sin at a time. Victory over sin occurs because Jesus forgave you and there is no longer anything standing between you and Him.
It occurred to me that the law of the Spirit of life is the superseding law. It is higher than the law of sin and death. That's why Galatians says no other law comes against the fruit of the Spirit. It is the law of love you are speaking about and it is higher than any other law.
Even examples we could pull of “leadership expectations” (e.g. the letter to Timothy) we should examine. When Paul pens that letter to Timothy he has been walking with Timothy for 15 years. Paul planted the churches he is handing off to his protégé. The standards that Paul lays out are spoken out of relationship, of intimate knowledge, of love of both Timothy and those churches. To apply just the rules in Timothy to the church universal is to lose the principle that Paul is speaking to his spiritual son out of relationship.
So let me know what you think of Part I. Where would you like to see this conversation go?