38 “Therefore, brothers and sisters, know this: Through Jesus we proclaim forgiveness of sins to you. From all those sins from which you couldn’t be put in right relationship with God through Moses’ Law, 39 through Jesus everyone who believes is put in right relationship with God.
There are 613 commandments (or mitzvot in Hebrew in the Old Testament). We of course know the 10 commandments that were handed down to Moses, but the other ones include all of the rules about food, fabrics, sacrifices, and other activities involved in the day to day lives of the Jewish people. Several years ago, a journalist named AJ Jacobs spent a year trying to live out these laws. He wrote a book called “The Year of Living Biblically” which I read quite some time ago. It is a fascinating read. He has also done a TED talk and has done other projects such as trying to get through one day without using plastic and reading the encyclopedia and going on a game show. Trying to live your life with over 600 very specific rules can be very difficult on a day to day basis, and if we thought our very lives depended on it, would we make attempts to “be good” or would we just give up and say “I am never going to live up to that standard so why bother – let me just live my life the way I think it is best”? Praise God that we don’t have to worry about such a difficult standard. As our scripture points out, we couldn’t have a relationship with God through Moses’ Law. That is why we believe in the healing power of Christ to put us in right relationship with God.
We know that nobody is capable of upholding all of the rules – whether the rules are from the Old Testament or rules that we are imposing on others because of our limited knowledge and tolerance of another’s situation. We should remember that anyone who believes is in right relationship with God. In our judgement of others, we can damage their ability to believe that God loves them if God’s representatives (we the church) make people feel that they are not worthy and deserving of God unless they change. That is not the point of the Gospel. The Gospel is for all – all of those sinners and tax collectors etc. that Jesus would hang out with – and it is for all of us. We can hate horrible things that people do to one another, we can hate that people are suffering, but making statements about hating the very core of who someone is is not what we are called to do.
I was once with a friend who came out to a fellow church member who she thought she could trust. That person said “Well, you would still be welcome at my house for dinner”. I guess the statement was meant to convey hospitality, but she and I both felt it conveyed hostility and not a welcoming tone at all. One minute before she told this person she was gay, he held her in high esteem – she had gone on mission trips with him, her parents were a pastor and deacon in the church. The minute after she told him, she was no longer held in that same position. She hadn’t changed, but he had. It is sad and maddening to me when such things happen, especially in a space that is based on love – the love of God for us.
by Janet Waryck
For Pondering & Prayer
What rules do you frequently break? How do you feel that affects your relationship
with God and with others?
God of grace, thank you for making a way for us to be in relationship with you. Help us
to extend that grace to others. Amen