Why did we receive the law? Seems so unnecessary. Why make life difficult? Why create human beings to live and then limit them again? Why look for ways to punish people? Why develop a constitution, criminal acts, childcare acts, labour laws? Why train people as officers to enforce these laws? The jails are overflowing already. Who enjoys catching someone doing wrong?
I must concede, though, that I generally do enjoy not being robbed or hurt, or killed, for that matter. I do appreciate the effect it has. So what is behind all these laws? Why is something right or wrong? Because someone said so? Let’s look at it from another angle.
Is it not good to love your spouse rather than to hurt them? Is it not good to be contempt, rather than to desire all the time, or to look after orphans and widows as opposed to leaving them to suffer? Is it not good and, therefore, right? Did God punish His people for the sake of punishing them or did He just actually desire that they trust in Him for everything. Did all the laws, rituals, warnings and punishments not point to one thing – that God is good and knows best for us?
God actually introduced Himself before he gave us the laws. “I am the God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love…I forgive inequity, rebellion and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty”. It all started with creation, life and grace, but by the time the Son of God came to the earth as the final offering that would free us once and for all people were being oppressed by the leaders, captive to innumerable laws and weary from the endless traditions of the ancestors.
So, when the leaders tried to catch Jesus out, as they did with everyone else, He addressed this straight on. “But Moses said we can divorce our wives if we have a letter”, they said. “It is because of your hardened hearts that he allowed you”, He said. “Your disciples are walking and eating on the sabbath”, they said. “Didn’t David do the same…didn’t you read that showing mercy is better than bringing sacrifices?”, He asked. “Your disciples don’t wash their hands before eating”, they said; “The prophet Isaiah was right when he said you honour me with you lips, but your hearts are far from me”, He said. And when they ran with an adulterer to Jesus, they were so assured of their laws that they were willing to confront Him in public. He cut through the law, however, right to the heart of the problem – their hearts. “The first one without sin can throw the first stone”, and everyone with a stone in their hand stood embarrassed, because the inside of their hearts looked like the adulterer’s – now laying at Jesus’ feet.
They missed the heart behind the law. And this is the litmus test I use to discern the religious from the true believer. The first group usually knows the theology only, but the second group knows God. The first group stays away from the wrong stuff, but the second group seeks out to go and do good. The first group needs rituals to remind them of God, the second sits at His table everyday. The first group seeks punishment and death and the second group seeks mercy and life. The first group is captive and the second group is free, because the first group read the commandments and saw the law, while the second group read the commandments and saw the invitation to learn from Him.
I reckon from a psychodynamic point of view that it was the deep seated sins and unacceptable drives that the church leaders of old carried in themselves (just as anyone else) that they projected onto others. Condemning others, seeking mistakes, upholding laws all serve a function – it keeps sin ‘outside of yourself’ and ‘under control’ (while it is not). We feel better when we find someone with a ‘bigger’ sin than ours, it makes the truth about our own souls more bearable. This leads to hypocrisy and then it leads to the hardening of hearts. Maybe this is why God opted to remove the heart of stone from our flesh and give us hearts of flesh.
“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart.”Jesus
We need less of the ‘right’ stuff and more of the good. This is my opinion, but I am interested in yours…
- Exodus 34:6
- Ezekiel 36:26
- Matthew 12:5
- Matthew 11:28