Monday, November 12, 2012

Freedom in Grace and Law

"We're not under the Old Testament, so I don't believe in tithes and offering and such," said an older man in his spiffy pinstripe suit, yellow polo shirt, and blue & yellow bowtie. "See, we're under the New Testament and grace."

I'm tired of Christians who disregard the OT and slap "grace" like a band-aid that covers up the things they do that contradict the teachings of their own church.

First. Grace. Awesome. Without it, things will suck. But it's not a band-aid. It's not an excuse. It's not a Get Out of Jail Free card. It's not a free-for-all permission slip.

Second. Jesus did not disregard the OT, because the OT was the only Scripture they had when He walked this earth. He knew it is the Word of God. He quoted it often. He knew it inside out. He translated it in radical ways that challenged the Jewish culture and landed Him in hot waters. Who are we, then, to disregard the OT when Jesus did not?

Second, subsection one. The NT writers did not disregard the OT either. It was Scripture. I don't think they ever thought their letters would become Scripture. They'd probably be shocked. And they'd be bowled over to find out that a believer considered their writings holier than the Scripture. They understood the OT better because of Jesus, and they understood Jesus better (a lot in retrospect it seems) because of the OT. Jesus cast a new light on the Word of God, and the Word of God pointed to Him.

Third. If your beliefs and practices contradict the beliefs, practices, and teachings of your church, you need to get out. Because if you don't, you'll ultimately create disunity. Mr. Spiffy was speaking with a woman, also spiffy, about his beliefs. Her part of the conversation didn't drift to my ears because she was facing away from me. However, I got the gist that she holding her own in the conversation. But what if you're talking with someone who's still finding his/her footing in the faith and in the faith community?

The Bible says it's a worse fate for those who lead others into sin (1 Cor 8, Rom 14, Matt 18, Mark 9, Lk 17). How great it is to find an environment of open and honest communication. Sadly, that's not the case with a lot of people, and we have to be careful with our two-edged swords. I have witnessed how differing views led others away from love. Instead, they cultivated hate, spread false rumors, and held grudges against their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. What a sad testimony for those new in the faith, and sadder still for the people we try to witness to. But saddest was the fact that most of those people were influenced, not influencers. They saw the clash among their leaders and took it to a whole new level. Why not just find a church or faith community you are in agreement with instead of creating disunity that can lead others into a twisted level of discord?

I'm daily grateful for grace. I need it multiple times a day. But I believe there is freedom in the entirety of the Bible. Yes, there are laws in the OT that we don't follow. What most people forget is that the OT is as much a story of God's love for everyone as it is a story of Israel, a nation with a culture of its own. God chose one nation to be His chosen people to show the world how to become His people. Not all nations and cultures are represented in the Bible. If everything was in the Bible, it will take up more memory than iPhones can handle.

In the specific regard to giving tithes and offerings, this is how I see it. Looking at Bible verses, the NT emphasizes giving from the heart as cheerfully and honestly as possible, while the OT has specific instructions. I find freedom in both. It's not either or. I cannot, in good conscience, give less than a tenth and justify my actions when I disregarded part of the Bible. Last I checked, the NT has not replaced the OT. My Bible has both, and I want it that way because I believe everything in the Bible is in there for a reason.

There is a reason and a freedom in both grace and law because my God is the same God found in the OT & NT. He speaks through His Word, whether it's in the first or second half of the Bible. Anyway, there is grace and law throughout the entire Word. OT isn't just law and NT isn't just grace. I don't think we can break up God's character like that, nor break up the triune God (the Father is law while the Son is grace...nuh-uh). He's a bit more complicated with thoughts higher than ours.

Parting note. I find it ironic that some people are so rigid in their view of grace that grace has become the law. Yet some people are so rigid in their view of the law that while they're crumbling under one mistake, they can't hear grace knocking at the door. Mr. Spiffy, it's not about being under the Old Testament or the New Testament. It's about God's love for us as seen in His entire Word.

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