Did Jesus demand we obey the Ten Commandments? The word commandments does not mean the Ten Commandments alone. It means all God’s commandments. Deuteronomy expands the Ten Commandments with many more commandments. Nobody keeps the Ten Commandments in the letter, not even those who practice the original Sabbath day. If they did, they would put to death idolaters, Sabbath breakers, adulterers and those who dishonor their parents as the letter of the law demands. Jesus explained how we keep the spirit of the law in the Sermon on the Mount. Christians fulfill the law in spirit not the letter. The letter kills, but the spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6).
How literal was Jesus’ approach to the Old Testament law? Was he persnickety, insisting that not one smallest pen-stroke of the law would disappear as long as heaven and earth exist? Is the law now even more binding? Did he break the law against collecting food on the Sabbath or was he obedient to a higher principle? He often showed how the spirit surpasses the letter of the law. The rest of the New Testament carries that discussion further and perhaps the most poignant example is the law of circumcision, whereby a literal interpretation is no longer relevant for the Christian, but a higher spiritual interpretation, a circumcision of the heart.
Old Testament law is explained by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. He did not say that obedience to the law is no longer required because of faith, but will explain how some of those laws should be applied. Jesus did not divide his explanation into arbitrary ceremonial, civil and moral laws? Like Paul, he spoke of the law as a unit, and that he did not come to abolish but to fulfill. Until heaven and earth disappear, the law applies. How can our righteousness be greater than that of devout believers, followers of the Hebrew Scriptures? We begin to understand the spirit of the law (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).
Jesus encouraged his disciples to do good. Christianity is more than worshiping, singing, and hearing sermons about Jesus. It includes doing good things. Do-nothing Christianity is incomplete and weak. Believing alone is not enough. Worship is only a start. Jesus said to go do. What are good works - obedience to the law or helping our neighbor? Jesus’ description is not limited to either of these conditions. It can mean being honest in our business dealings, using appropriate and inoffensive language, being commendable in our charity, honorable in the way we speak of others and praiseworthy in our community life. One of the most effective forms of evangelism is doing good deeds.
Have you ever heard of covert Christians who hide their faith? Some Christians are closet Christians and it contradicts what Jesus taught. He told his disciples that they were a city on a hill that cannot be hid. The followers of Jesus Christ are a light that is meant to be seen, not hidden away in secret. What exactly of Christ’s disciples must be seen? Is it our fancy buildings, our church music, our fancy clothing, our wonderful arguments or something else? Jesus specifically mentioned that we are to let our good deeds be seen, not to show off, as he later explained, but so that others may glorify God.
Jesus said his disciples are the salt of the earth and are the light of the world. This was encouragement to be what they already were. We too are the salt that gives the world a good taste and the light that brightens this dark planet. When we are not, our communities suffer. Salt preserves. When we fail to live up to our calling, our world rots from the inside out and is not preserved. Light helps us see. When we fail to rise up and be the light of the world, others cannot see God in us. Let’s wake up and be who God says we are. Let’s be ourselves.
Can salt lose its saltiness? Bible critics could reveal their ignorance of history by assuming that it means the same thing by salt as we do. We define table salt as sodium chloride. However, what Jesus meant by salt cannot be explained in our cultural terms. It was probably a mixture of calcium sulfate and our table salt. Calcium sulfate is gypsum and used to make plaster of Paris. This mixture could lose the salt component and thus its “saltiness.” All this reveals a very important step in studying the Bible: get our definitions right. Careful research rather than jumping to hasty conclusions helps us understand the Bible so much better.
Who cares about languages! Without love, they’re just noisy exhibitionism! Who cares about know-it-all prophecies and mountain-moving! Without love, they’re useless! Who cares about bragging philanthropy! Without love, it’s hollow!
Love is patient and kind, not rude. Love protects, believes, hopes, endures. Love never fails, but prophecies and languages will end. Know-it-alls will have nothing to brag about. Our pitiful efforts end when Jesus takes over.
Little children think they know everything, but we grow up and put away childish thoughts. One day God will let us know the whole story. But now, the only really important things are faith, hope and love. The most important of all is love.
Labels: 1 Corinthians 13
Why are we harassed if we do the right thing, like keeping the speed limit, supporting the boss at work or avoiding dirty jokes? Jesus said blessed are those who are persecuted for doing right. If we do the right thing, we will be insulted and vilified. It is a badge of honor to be abused for doing right. It confirms that we are on God’s side. In that sense it is a blessing. The opposite is also true. If everyone loves us and we are never mistreated, maybe we are doing something wrong. Sometimes we are at fault. However, when harassment comes because we were righteous, it is a blessing.
Persecution means to pursue or chase away. It can be mild or bad enough to flee town (Matthew 20:23). Why did Jesus call the persecuted blessed? How can harassment be blessed? Perhaps 60% of Christians today live in countries with heavy restrictions on religious freedom and a quarter suffer severe mistreatment. How is that blessed? If that abuse is because of righteousness, then we identify with Jesus. If we cherish what is right, if we love God, if we love his Church, we will be hated. We are either on Jesus’ side or not. Persecution for righteousness tells us clearly that we are blessed because we are on God’s side.