Psalms 119:41, 43-45, 47, 48
Today's scriptures deal with God's laws and grace. How these relate has always been somewhat of a mystery to me. If we have grace, is it "anything goes?" If we have grace, do we automatically desire to obey God's laws? I'm one of those "you have to earn it" types, so the gift of God's grace is sometimes a tough concept for me to embrace.
In Galatians, Paul says that if we get ourselves too wrapped up in the law, we are alienating Christ and have fallen away from grace. Whether you're circumcised or not is no big deal, "the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." The psalmist promises to obey God's law forever. The psalmist sees God's laws as freeing. He delights in them, he loves them and he will meditate on them. In Luke, Christ is invited to dinner by a Pharisee. And the Pharisee turns out to be a classic example of what Paul's talking about. Instead of giving thanks and rejoicing that he is having dinner with Jesus, the Pharisee is more concerned that Jesus didn't wash his hands. Sheesh! The Pharisee is so focused on ritual law that he doesn't recognize that he's sitting with the Son of God. Christ admonishes the Pharisee (and us) that the focus should be on the inside, not the outside. You can show up at church on Sundays looking like a million bucks, but if there's no love for God or your neighbor in your heart, then you may be pleasing man, but you aren't pleasing God.
In a recent Sunday school lesson I was presenting the ten commandments to my class of second graders. They did fine, but had some trouble with the idol worship part. I wanted to say "think of the entertainment center in your home," but I refrained. :) We then did great until we got to "do not commit adultery." I tried to explain the sanctity of marriage vows, probably not very well. One little girl in my class who is, shall we say, quite spirited, fell silent. She raised her hand and defiantly said, "I'm glad my parents are divorced." My heart broke. Obviously someone had told this little girl at some time that one of her parents had broken their vows and probably thrown in a "they're going to hell," too. I immediately explained that obeying God's law is very important, but that all of us will fail at one time or another. Equally important is to know that when we fail, God gives us the opportunity to repent and be forgiven. Christ is our friend and our advocate and no matter how badly or how many times we screw up, He will always be there for us. That is God's promise and, praise God, that will never change.
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