Stop in the Name of the Law

I am a man that likes rules.  It’s just my personality.  I am a person who likes organization and order.  I like to know what my parameters are.  Now that doesn’t mean that I always obey the rules but I like rules. To me it makes life easier.  But rules have their problems.  Mostly that they are broken because it’s virtually impossible to obey all the rules all the time.

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Creative Commons, DanBrady

And then there are the people who think they are above the rules.  Well, that probably includes all of us, but that’s not my point. My point is that there are times that those who make the rules, or those who are to enforce the rules, break the very rules they made or are to enforce.  Congress is good about this. They make laws and then exempt themselves from obeying those laws.  Some police officers are the same.  They break laws, such as speeding in their patrol cars, but will write tickets to civilians that break those same laws.  It’s hypocrisy at its best.  I am not judging because I am guilty of violating rules that I have made.  Parents are guilty when they use the notion, “don’t do as I do, do as I say.”

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were exactly like this.  They were so afraid of breaking the Law of God that they would make laws on top of the original laws so as not to break the law.  They not only expected the people to follow God’s original law but they also expected them to obey the traditions of the elders.  The problem is that they didn’t always obey everything themselves.

Matthew 23:1-4 tell us:  1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying:” The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. 4 They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. (emphasis added)

Again, hypocrisy at its best.

We know from the New Testament that Jesus has fulfilled the Law and that mankind is no longer under its rule and authority.  During the formation of the Church in the first century, the early Christians had to deal with this issue.  Did they follow Jesus and the Law or just Jesus by faith alone?   We see this struggle played out in Acts 15.  Paul was seeing Gentiles coming to faith in Jesus and was not putting any stipulations from the Law upon them, specifically circumcision. However, some Jewish believers wanted the Gentile Christians to follow the Law as well.  The entire book of Galatians deals with this.    The consensus of the Church leadership was that circumcision was not to be put upon the Gentile believers.  They didn’t have to follow the Law of Moses.  They were saved by faith and faith alone.

I love Peter’s argument in Acts 15:10-11.

10 “Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” (emphasis added)

Peter states that they couldn’t follow the Law.  It was a yoke that they, nor their fathers, could bear.  Why in the world would they want to put that same yoke upon the Gentiles?  Why would they want to go back to following a huge list of rules that they in no way could keep?

Christians are notorious for this!  We talk about living by grace.  We talk about salvation by faith alone.  We tell people to come to Jesus with all their sins, mistakes and failures.  We tell them that Jesus will accept just as they are.  They don’t have to do anything for Jesus to receive them – just put their faith in what He has done for them.  Jesus plus nothing equals salvation.

However, we don’t always live by what we speak about.  We tend to put rules on people.  Ask most Christians what it takes to be a good Christian and you will receive a list of answers that goes something like this . . .

You must read your Bible….

You must pray…..

You must go to church….

You must tithe 10% of your income to the church….

You must not go to bars……

You must not listen to “secular” music…..

You must not smoke, drink, dance, chew, watch R-rated movies, etc.

The list goes on.

We have such a mixture of law and grace in the Church today.  It’s like we give people a present with grace as the outer wrapping but once they accept the gift and open it up they end up with the Law!

The problem with the above list is that these become rules in and of themselves.  If you break one of these rules then someone is there to judge you as not being a “good Christian”.  These rules become LAW in the lives of believers.  If you break a law then you are not being a good Christian.  We no longer have the law of Moses . . . we have the law of the Church.

Then, we have those Christians who believe that we don’t have to obey the ceremonial law of the Old Testament (not eating certain foods, not having sex during certain times, not touching dead bodies, etc.) but we do have to obey the moral law . . . i.e. the Ten Commandments.

Here’s the problem with that thinking.  If you try to live by one law then you have to live by ALL the laws.  If you break one law then you are guilty of breaking ALL the laws.  James 2:10 — For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.

The point:  you CANNOT live up to the laws no matter who yells at you to “Stop in the Name of the Law!”

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Creative Commons, Stuart Heath

The one yelling “Stop” is most likely guilty of breaking one of those laws that they want you to obey.  If I become the moral police of the Church then I’d best be abiding by all the laws that I am trying to enforce.  The problem is I can’t, and you cannot either.  It’s pointless to try to live by the Law.

So am I saying that you can do whatever you want as a Christian?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!

What I am saying is the very thing that the apostle Peter said in Acts 15:  why are we putting burdens on people that our fathers nor ourselves could bear?  We’ve got far too many Christians yelling “Stop!” when our focus should be on loving one another and dealing with the sin and issues in our own lives.

Now before someone agrees by saying, “that’s right!  We should not be judging”, we must realize that we do have a responsibility to confront sin in the life a believer (Matt. 18:15; Luke 17:3).  We should help other believers out by confronting sins in their lives but this must be done from an angle of love and relationship, not from the angle of “you’ve broken the law and you aren’t being a good Christian.”

Jesus fulfilled the law (the rules) and told us to love God and love others. If we will love God and others then we won’t focus on sin but on love.  Preaching against sin without showing people that we love them won’t change people.  It will only turn them away from us.  Jesus told people not to sin anymore, but He first showed them they He loved them and cared for them.  He showed them compassion and mercy, not judgment.  The very one who could have screamed out, “Stop in the name of the Law!” is the very one that fulfilled the Law because He knew that we couldn’t.

As Christians, we do not live by rules.  We live by love.

As Christians, we will break the rules/Law because the rules/Law are too high a standard for us.

As Christians, we can love without rules or conditions.

As Christians, we can empathize with fellow humans because we understand the frailties of humanity.

Jesus understands our weaknesses and frailties.  He understands what it’s like to be a human.  He understands the temptation to break the rules.  He prays for us.  He is on our side.  He won’t kick you when you are down (unlike some “Christians”).  The ones who kick fellow Christians while they are down are usually the ones that are yelling, “Stop in the name of the Law.”

So the next time you are tempted to tell a fellow believer, “Stop in the name of the Law”, stop yourself and look at that person with love!  Realize you don’t know their struggles, temptations or issues.  You job is to reach out a steadying hand and love them.

As New Covenant believers, we can NEVER say, “Stop in the name of the Law.”

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