Removing the Cheese Log Out of My Eye

Image“If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”  Paula Deen’s kitchen is pretty hot these days and some of her business partners are getting out.  They’re dropping her like a hot sweet potato covered in melted marshmallows – Ok, enough of the corny metaphors.  The situation with Paula Deen, along with the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case in Sanford, Florida and the Supreme Court’s action on “Affirmative Action” and the Voting Rights Act this week, and the protest of a Cheerios commercial showing a bi-racial couple,  show that race is still an issue in 2013.

In a teary interview on The Today Show, Paula said, “I am here today because I want people to know who I am and people that have worked beside me, have walked beside me, know what kind of person I am…People that I have never heard of are now experts of who I am.”

When Matt flat-out asked if Paula was a racist, she answered definitively, “No. No I’m not, no.”  I believe her, in that in her own mind, she doesn’t believe she is a racist.  In her eyes, she is not.  Honestly, I don’t think Paula hates black people. But her testimony in the deposition and other comments recorded on video indicates at least an insensitivity.

Admitting that she had used “the N word” with an “of course,” as if “everybody does it.”

Defending telling racial and ethnic jokes, “…Most jokes are about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks.  Most jokes target – I don’t know.  I didn’t make up the jokes, I don’t know.  I can’t – I don’t know…They usually target though a group.  Gays or straights, black, redneck, you know, I just don’t know. I can’t, myself, determine what offends another person.”

And wishing she could plan a “southern plantation wedding” for her brother, with African American servers in the part of slaves.

My point of this post is not to “pile on” Paula Deen.
I have some experience with people talking about me in ways that misrepresent me and my views so I am sensitive to that issue with others.
I respect her request of America to “not throw stones.”  While it’s easy to point a finger, I realize that there are three fingers pointed back at me.

I wonder if we like Paul Deen type episodes. They allow us to focus our attention on the splinter in the eye of someone else while ignoring the log in our own eye.

My point is to ask the Lord if I am blind to any behaviors or attitudes that are insensitive and/or offensive to people.

I just fixed some hot tea.  Love it.  The tea in the bag was diffused in the water – effortlessly, completely.  I think that’s what happens with prejudice.  It seems to infiltrate our hearts and culture – sometimes silently.     Psychologists talk about “symbolic racism” – instances of individuals using code words that tend to indicate racial prejudice without being overtly racist themselves.  For example: If you’re complaining that you aren’t allowed to use the N-word while other people get to, you just might be a symbolic racist.

I’m not a Paula Deen food fan.  I don’t put mayo on my corn on the cob. We have none of her cookbooks in our home. We don’t use her recipes.  I think she’s a nice person and I believe her when she says “I have never intentionally hurt anybody on purpose, and I never would.”  She is learning, and I hope I will as well, to know and avoid what hurts people.

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Free From the Law, O Happy Condition

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I’ve heard some questions, and some protests, about my position that Christians are not under the law:

“If we don’t have to obey the law of Moses, what’s to keep us from sinning?”
“Isn’t anything sin anymore?”

Behind these questions lies a fear that the grace message is an invitation to sin.  We’ve seen that fear before:

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” (Romans 6:1),  the Roman Christians ask in response to Paul’s grace message in Romans 5.

Paul’s answer?  “By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:2).

Then, Paul speaks to the Law issue, “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.  What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 6:14-15)

Two things seem real clear:
We are not “under the law.”  I really don’t know how we miss that.  How can Paul be more plain?
Being out from under the law does not give us a license to sin.

I’ve got a couple of questions of my own:

Why does a Christ-follower choose to live by the Law instead of the Spirit? I don’t get people who don’t like chocolate and I don’t get Christians who live by the Law.

“Law following” Christians claim to want to live like Jesus.   I believe they really do. But following the Law won‘t get us there.
“through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2) – The law brings death, not life.

“So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.” (Romans 7:4)  There’s no fruit on the Law-tree.

“You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.  For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.” Galatians 5:4-5)  If we choose to live a “righteous” life by following the Law then we cut ourselves off from the resources provided by God – His grace. Paul gives us a choice: Grace or Law?  We can’t have it both ways.

Paul asks my next question. It’s a tough one:  “O,  foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you?  For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross.  Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ.  How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?  Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain was it?” (Galatians 5:1-4

Paul doesn’t hold back.  He doesn’t sound happy.  He uses some harsh language: “Foolish” literally – a “non-thinker.”  “Cast an evil spell” -under the spell of false teachers.   He sounds frustrated and angry that people are buying what the Judaizers are selling – the teaching that Christ-followers have to follow the Law.  Maybe he’s mad at the sellers as well.  He calls them “dogs” in Philippians 3:2.

“Let’s think this through, “ Paul seems to say.  “If we aren’t saved by obeying the Law then we don’t live the Christian life by obeying the Law.”  There’s a new sheriff in town.  His name is the Holy Spirit and His law is love.

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.” James 2:8

“…for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8

“Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:10

“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel…” Galatians 1:6

“…because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”  Romans 8:2

Back in my childhood in every Baptist church to which I belonged, we sang songs by Philip P. Bliss: “Wonderful Words of Life”  “Jesus Loves Even Me” and this one:

Free from the law, O happy condition
Jesus has bled and there is remission,
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Grace hath redeemed us once for all.

Now we are free, there’s no condemnation,
Jesus provides a perfect salvation.
“Come unto Me,” O hear His sweet call,
Come, and He saves us once for all.

Paul got it.  Philip Bliss got it.  I want to live the rest of my life getting it.

Jesus Fought the Law and the Law Lost

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Headlines like the one above really irritate some people.  “How dare they pick and choose?!”  But be honest.  We all pick and choose.  Who among us obey all 613 commands of the Mosaic law?  That’s right.  Some people believe that the Law is just the Ten Commandments.  Actually, the Law of Moses contains 613 commandments covering everything from blood sacrifices to men’s haircuts to sewage disposal to charging interest on loans.

The New Testament seems to take a few steps further than the Supreme Court:

Romans 6:14: For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Romans 7:4: So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.  

Galatians 2:19: For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.

Romans 7:6: But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

Galatians 3:24-45: So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.  Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian

Colossians 2:14: ...having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.

Hebrews 8:13: By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.

Hebrews 10:9:  He sets aside the first to establish the second.

Romans 10:4:  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Ephesians 2:14-15:  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances…

Not under law; died to the law; dying to what once bound us;  released from the law; no longer under a guardian; nailed to the cross; obsolete; set aside; Christ is the end of the law; abolishing the law.  Strong words.  Clear communication.

I can hear the objections: “But wait!  What about Matthew 5:17-19? Take that!  See, the law is still in effect.  We’re still supposed to follow it.”  Jesus said,  Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished…”

Well, this is confusing.  Paul says Jesus abolished the law (Ephesians 2:15) and Jesus says he has not come to abolish the law!  What’s up?

Back it up.  Jesus did say the law would disappear when two things happened: 1. heaven and earth will disappear,  and, 2. everything is accomplished.   When those two things happen, the law is out of here! It’s gone. So long.  See ya later.  Gone like Roger Daltrey’s shirt.

#2 – Everything is accomplished –  At a key moment Jesus announced that everything was finished – at that moment. “It is finished.” John 19:30

#1 – Heaven and earth will disappear – Well, that obviously means a literal heaven and earth disappearing. Doesn’t it?  Maybe not.
If “heaven and earth” refers to a literal, physical heaven and earth, then, yep, the Law of Moses has not passed – it’s still alive and kicking.  But I believe that “heaven and earth” is a metaphor for political or national systems.  Take a look at these references:
Isaiah 1:1-2; Isaiah 24:3-6; Isaiah 34:3-5; Hebrews 12:26-28; Matthew 24:29; Luke 21:32-33

In the last two references Jesus wasn’t speaking of a physical heaven and earth but of a system – a way of doing things – the Mosaic Covenant with its laws, sacrifices, priesthood, tabernacle (Hebrews  9:8-11).  Jesus was speaking of the fall of Jerusalem that would happen about 40 years later in A.D. 70 when God removed the things that could be shaken and in their place gave His people a Kingdom which can never be moved (Hebrews 12:18-28).

Luke 21:32-33 contains the same elements as Matthew 5:17-19 – the disappearance of heaven and earth and everything accomplished.

Jesus and Paul are not in conflict with one another.  Heaven and earth – the system under the Mosaic covenant disappeared bringing on the abolishment of the law!!!!

So, I guess we can just let ourselves go wild?!  God, as always, has this covered;
So Christ has truly set us free.  Now make sure you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law…For you have been called to live in freedom … but don’t use your freedom to satisfy your flesh.  Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love…So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide our lives.  Then you won’t be doing what your flesh craves (Galatians 5:1-16).

The law or the Holy Spirit?  What is our choice?

What About the Law?

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Over the last few weeks I have followed the discussion in the blogosphere concerning the role of the Old Testament law.  The question centers on a variation of Moses’ statement made in the above “Speed Bump” cartoon: “What part of the law is meant for us?”

People answer that question in one of three ways:
1. All of it.  2. Some of it.  3. None of it.

Let’s look a bit more closely at the three options:

1. Think hard about this before you say, “Of course all of it is meant for us! God said it so I’ll do it!”  Placing yourself in that group means that you’ve cleaned all of the cotton-polyester     clothes out of your closet – Leviticus 19:19; Deuteronomy 22:11; that you order your     steak “well-done,”  Leviticus 19:26; that you never cut your hair, Leviticus 19:27 (If only I would have used that verse during the great hair-debates of the 60s); and other behaviors that just don’t make much sense to us today.

2. The “some of it” group is huge.  This view breaks the law into three categories:
a. The moral law – declares how man should live.
b. The civil law – describes the legal structures for the ancient nation of Israel.
c. The ceremonial law – declares how Israel was to worship.

The “some of it” group says that only the moral law is “meant for us.”  The ceremonial     and civil laws were meant only for ancient Israel.   So, “Don’t murder” still applies but not the “no haircut” rule. This view is the one held by most Christians today.

3.   The “none of it” answer is the one that I believe is the right one.  To explain why will take a lot longer than one post! Let’s jump in.

*The Bible gives no hint of different “kinds” of law.  It’s all one.  Joshua speaks of the Law as one unit when he writes in Joshua 1:8, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; mediate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

It sounds like Paul does the same thing in Galatians 5:3, “Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.”

No division by either Joshua or Paul.

*How do you pick and choose?  It gets confusing.  “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) is followed in the very next verse by the law “do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.”  Should verse 18 be seen as “meant for us” while verse 19 is dismissed as nonapplicable?   The text gives no indication that any kind of hermeneutical shift has taken place between the two verses.

One of the clearest examples of the confusion in picking which law to keep and which to dismiss is the 4th commandment out of the Big 10 – Exodus 31:14-15 – the one about keeping the Sabbath.  The “some of it” group says that the 10 Commandments are part of the Moral Law, and thus, meant for us today. Wouldn’t most people believe that we are to keep the 10 Commandments?  Yes, but do we really keep the Sabbath?

“Sure. I go to church on Sunday.”

That’s great.  But that’s not keeping the Sabbath.  If we’re going to keep the law, we can’t alter it or adjust it.  The Sabbath is the seventh day which is Saturday.  Keeping the Sabbath didn’t have anything to do with going to church.  It was having a day of total rest.  No work, no chores, no cooking, no traveling.

“But aren’t there passages that say we don’t need to observe the Sabbath anymore?” Yep.  Take a look at Romans 14:5, “In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike.  You should be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable.”  Want another?  “So, don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths.  For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come.  And Christ himself is that reality.” Colossians 2:16-17

So are we required to keep the Sabbath?  It doesn’t sound like it.  So I guess that means we are to obey the Nine Commandments…right?  Confusing.

Paul may clear it up a bit.
“Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.  The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator.”  Galatians 3:19

So, Phillip, what do we do with the 10 Commandments?  We follow many of these same commands like “no adultery”, “no murder”, etc.  But we don’t follow them because they are the 10 Commandments.  We follow them because we follow the way of love – the way of Christ who is the Seed who has come.

“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’… But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”  Galatians 5:14,18

Love, as experienced and expressed in Jesus is what is meant for us.