I’m going to lay my cards out now: while there are commandments–rules–in the Bible, that is not its primary purpose. It is primarily about the relationship we are privileged to have with the Creator of the universe. Thus, the rules exist to govern how we relate to him, and each other. And rule number one is love. In my estimation, God is not about rules for rules sake–else why do the scriptures tell us that “man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart?”
To God, I would assay, it’s motives that are far more important than the actual actions (Jars of Clay, in their excellent Boys (Lesson One), puts it this way: “not to undermine the consequence, but you are not what you do”). It’s the why of what we do that matters far more. Look no further than the Beatitudes:
Matthew 5:21-22 says:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (ESV)
Strong words–strong words dealing strongly with internal states–motives.
Consider also verses 26-28:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
There again God is looking at the intent–something that we as finite people cannot see. It’s pretty obvious that Jesus addressed his remark to men because, as he made them, he knows how they’re wired, how visual men are (which is not to say that women are not guilty of lust, but rather it’s usually elsewise stimulated in them–having more to do with how they are treated).
I would go so far as to say that whatever is not motivated by–steeped, drenched–in love, is less than Christlike. And Christ’s kind of love is sacrificial–as C.S. Lewis calls it, it’s a “gift love.” It gives of itself. And keeps giving.
My friend Larry Carter wrote about about doctrine, theology, and love this week–about how the two inform each other (Larry, we are on the same side–just coming at it from different angles).
The danger I see is that one can have all the right doctrine in the world (look no further than the Pharisees), but be entirely lacking in love. Be lacking in the right attitudes, and attendant actions. I know: I’ve spent my time in the legalistic trenches (in some ways still struggle with this), made my faith about the shoulds and should nots.
And it only got me so far–because it was a faith all about me. I had a head full of Bible knowledge, but a heart lacking in love. Which leads me to:
We can have all the right beliefs in the world, but if our doctrine is lacking in love, is not drenched in grace, what’ve we got?
Yes, the law is the taskmaster that lead us to Christ, but when I became a man I put away childish things. The Gospel is a gospel of grace, of the good news. Have been converted merely to serve yet another system of laws? Laws are safe, and there is great security in legalism–for a season. Grace however is vaster, and more dangerous by far, than the stormiest seas. (Think of when, in the Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis says of Aslan: “‘Course he’a not safe, but he’s good”). Grace assaults our sensibilities, because it tells us that no one–not a Dahmer, nor a Hitler–is ever beyond redemption. I’ve a sneaking suspicion that when God said that “I am not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” he meant it.
God is bigger, broader, higher, richer, deeper than…
And his grace is rooted in his nature, which is love.
What do you think?