Follow the Spirit of the Law

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23, ESV)

Pharisees were Jesus’ opponents who followed the exact wordings of the Hebrew Bible, but lacked compassion for the suffering people. Pharisees were quick to judge, but they elevated themselves above others, and they denied God’s blessing to those they condemn.

Jesus recommended the Pharisees to consider justice, mercy and faithfulness. That could be a very good recommendation for us as well. Who among us have not judged in quickness, or elevated us above the people who we condemned?

To be more just is not to be a better judge, but rather to not judge. Jesus said “Do not judge others, and God will not judge you; forgive others, and God will forgive you.” Each of us may sin, but we also wish to turn away from our mistakes. It would be a blessing to meet someone who can give a helping hand when we are feeling down from our mistakes. Jesus would be able to reach out to us at that moment.

To have more mercy means to have more compassion, to be more life giving and nourishing to those who are lacking or hurting. Jesus was not just willing to have fellowship with a five times divorced woman, but he was willing to give her living water that brings eternal life.

To be faithful to God is not to follow the letters of the Law in the Bible, but to follow the spirit of the Law, which is best summed up as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind”, and “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”.

If we do all of these, God will give us overflowing blessings more than we can hold. And that is just one of the Good News!


Jesus Fulfilled the Obligations of Old Testament Laws

There are some Christians who sought to bind us to the obligations of Old Testament Laws. Perhaps they thought that they were superior to Christians who were free from these Laws. These Laws served a good purpose; they brought order to a barbaric society in the Bronze Age. However, if we had to be subject to these Laws, then we would risk spiritual death, and suffer guilt and alienation from God.

Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. Because they have cursed their father or mother, their blood will be on their own head. (Leviticus 20:9)

If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife – with the wife of his neighbor – both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10)

If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. (Leviticus 20:13)

If a man has sexual relations with a woman during her monthly period, he has exposed the source of her flow, and she has also uncovered it. Both of them are to be cut off from their people. (Leviticus 20:18)

The punishments for any of these violations are so harsh that we could call them human sacrifices. The people of their time thought that blood have to be shed to appease the angry land for these violations. Fortunately, Jesus has fulfilled the obligations of the Old Testament Laws. It was Jesus who said “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” (Matthew 9:13)

In Acts chapter 15 the Christian disciples had abolished almost all but just a few of the Laws. Peter said that the Law was a burden that the disciples nor their ancestors could carry successfully. Paul and Barnabas described that non-Jews were becoming followers of Christ, and there were no distinctions between the Jewish believers and the non-Jewish believers, for they all received the gift of Holy Spirit. The disciples finally did away with the burdens of the Law because they found confidence in Christ.

Jesus had talked about the issue of Laws in his ministry. He taught us the principles of following the spirit of the Law in his Sermon on the Mount. Prohibitions and punishments have been turned into a way of daily living. He also pointed out two principles as being fundamental: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And also: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22) These principles should be safe, since they were from our Lord who we trust.

Also be sure that by following Jesus faithfully we will be made pure, as people who belong to him alone and eager to do good. (Titus 2:14) That is also a good news!


The Meaning of the Sodom Story

In one of the story of Genesis we read that God decided to destroy the sinful city of Sodom. The important point was not that Sodom was destroyed, but in understanding why it happened. Traditionally this has been interpreted as God’s displeasure on gay people. But a simple reading of the Scripture can easily show what a lazy and misleading interpretation this was!

“As surely as I am the living God,” the Sovereign Lord says, “your sister Sodom and her villages never did the evil that you and your villages have done. She and her daughters were proud because they had plenty to eat and lived in peace and quiet, but they did not take care of the poor and the underprivileged. They were proud and stubborn and did the things that I hate, so I destroyed them, as you well know. Ezekiel 16:48-50 (GNB)

This passage provided a context to the story of Sodom, which was about an attack on helpless strangers with capricious and cruel manners, which had nothing to do with loving same sax relationships. Sodom’s town people instead of helping these strangers, decided to participate in the commotions. This was in keeping with their practice of arrogance, mistreatment of the poor and needy people that we read in Ezekiel. It was the actions of the town people that sealed Sodom’s fate. God did not judge a town by the actions of a few bullies, but it was the unconcern of general people at large that defined the character of Sodom.

If Sodom was about mistreatment of the poor, the needy, and strangers, then we can see similar issues happening daily in our cities. When we mistreat the strangers among us then we should all be concerned, because we have strayed far from loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Dear Father, help us understand the meaning of these difficult Scripture passages; let us not fall into hating people who are different than us. Instill love in our heart so we will hear the cries of the people in need, not like the unconcerned people of Sodom. We pray for that day when all discouraged and doubting people can receive the caring they need from God’s people. Fill our repenting hearts with your healing Holy Spirit, that we pray humbly in your presence. In Jesus’ name, Amen.