What CAN I Do, Then?

Much as we claim to hate them, there's something kind of appealing about the simplicity of rules, isn't there? Do Not Feed The Lions. 45 MPH. Keep Off The Grass. Simple. There are people whose careers have been dedicated to figuring out rules for other peoples lives: advice columnists abound. There's even a book called The Rules. Heck, there's an entire genre!

Here's the quandary: as believers, our lives are no longer defined by our adherence to the law. God's word makes it perfectly clear that we cannot live up to the standards God has set, but that Christ came in flesh and obeyed God's law to the letter in our stead.

But I like rules. I would love it if someone would just tell me exactly how I'm supposed to behave.

So, rather than striving for Christlikeness, for actions defined and bounded by grace and characterized by love, I make myself a little rulebook. Don't look at x. Don't say x. Don't think about x. Don't do x. This much of x is all right, but this much is too much. No flirting. No romance novels. No ice cream.

With all that running through my mind, is it any wonder that I stopped today and wondered, "Well, what CAN I do, then?" It's a seriously frustrating issue to me, especially in the context of a particular circumstance right now. You might be surprised how difficult it is to figure out how to act when all you have to go on are injunctions. It's like a professor who gives a writing assignment, and when you ask for help he tells you, "It shouldn't be written in Swahili and it can't be about the 17th century Spanish monarchy." Not helpful.

In my daily interactions, I've discovered that the Law of Christ is harder. Far from being an easier way to live, Christian freedom is much more complicated and mentally taxing than legalism. It requires that I search God's word. It requires prayer. It requires discernment, and accountability, and community. It results in mistakes, sometimes mistakes I don't even realize until later. But it also produces humility, maturity, wisdom, deep friendships, equanimity, contentment, and joy. It causes me to trust the Lord, because there's not always crystal-clear dictation in Scripture for the minutiae of life (by which I mean, there's no 3 Corinthians 8:14 that says, "And to my single sisters I say, not I but the Lord, that thou shalt behave thusly toward cute boys..." Although, wouldn't that be kinda awesome? Anyway).

"This side of heaven," as my dad says, I'll never have it all figured out. I'll continue to fail in how I strive to be like Christ. But I praise God that he is already at work, never sleeping, always faithful, until I am conformed to the image of his Son.


Chris said...

Well said. WELL said! :)

Anonymous said...

when the bible says that as believers we are under grace and not under the law it only means that we are no longer under the condemnation of the law. as believers we have a law, one that is written in our hearts, to follow.

To love God is to obey his commandments. This necessitates the existence of certain rules to obey. So even though the law wrt to condemnation is completely done away in Christ, we still have a law to follow. obedience is a necessary sign of saving faith.

Scripture tells us not to call anyone our teacher but the Christ and He through the Holy Spirit teaches us the will of God.

Laura said...

I had a weird feeling I was going to get some feedback like that, Anonymous.

What about when Paul refused to allow Titus to be circumcised? Or his discourse to the Galatians on the dangers of being bound again under a yoke of slavery to ceremonial laws?

Of course, I am not advocating licentious behavior, but the law of Love: not a "feel-good" love, but the kind of sacrificial, other-seeking, drastic love Christ demonstrated on the Cross. Radical obedience to God's commands is necessitated by the love of Christ (2 Cor 5:14).

What I struggle with, and warn strongly against, is legalism. God's law is good; it is the laws that my flesh wants to create around the law, for the sake of not having to figure out what it looks like in my season of life to love my neighbor or flee youthful lusts, that are bad.

Anonymous said...

the book of galatians dealt with the judaizers who advocated a synergistic approach of faith plus works wrt salvation. because it drastically changed the message of salvation by faith alone, Paul vehemently opposed it to the point of calling those who preached it accursed. it was the motive there that was called into question. people were getting circumcised because they werent sure of their salvation by faith alone and therefore needed some external confirmation of their salvation which they got by keeping the mosaic law. so in effect they didnt believe solely in the completed works of Christ to save but in their works as well for salvation.
the book of colossians deals with legalism.

But isnt it the motive here thats important? Everyone of us knows what our weaknesses are and as a consequence we do tend to make rules. But the motive here is to avoid temptation and please God rather than to gain salvation. So is there anything wrong in creating rules that help us avoid temptation as long as we dont push them on others as Gods commandments? but then doesnt this become the first commandment.

When Paul talks about being concerned for those weaker in faith, dont we implicitly make some rules in order that the weaker dont stumble because of us, like not eating meat as he mentions? And this the second commandment?

Doesnt this imply that rules as long as they dont annul the word of God but help in keeping them are unavoidable? But it is rather the motive thats important.

Laura said...

Anonymous, I think you and I are talking around each other, not to each other! I appreciate your point of view. I strongly dislike anonymous comments. If you choose to comment again, please indicate your identity. Thank you.

Chris said...

Matthew 9:7ff might have something to say on this issue. If you read it, you have to ask, is Jesus really saying what he appears to be saying to each person? Or is it about their motives in following him? Does he REALLY want the man to avoid burying his father, or is it that he knows that the man could have buried his father already and is using it as an excuse?

I'm with ya, Laura :)