Wednesday, May 19, 2010

And He Talks More Than His Share, Too

I have 27 blogs I contribute to, as well as a couple forums I'm a regular on. WHAT KIND OF A WRITING MASOCHIST AM I?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Jesus, Paul and the Law

I received this anonymous comment on one of my blogs:

I am currently holding a discussion with a Jew who accuses Christians of lawlessness. I as a Sabbathkeeper thought I could do a better job of witnessing to him than Sunday keepers. NOT SO! He says that no Christian church is doing the right thing. He says that Matthew 5:17-19 is teaching the keeping of the whole Torah & the chuch is simply not obeying this command of Yeshua!

I then quoted Paul in Col 2:14-16 saying that the ceremonial laws have been done away with. He didn't appreciate that & thinks that Paul is a heretic who should be discarded. I said that is impossible as there'd be no Christian church w/o Paul taking the gospel to the Gentiles.

I simply do not believe that Paul would OPPOSE Jesus.

So what is the truth about him & Matthew 5:17-19?

Excellent question, and it is a difficult issue.

The way I understand it, and how the early church decided it, is that Jesus' statement to keep every minute aspect of the law applies to only those who were born under the law. If we were not born under the burden of the law, then we should not be saddled with it, even though we are following Jesus. It is enough that we are following the law of Jesus. We are not antinomian if we are following the law of Jesus and not the law of Moses.

Your Jewish friend might argue that to follow the whole law of Jesus includes this one which tells us to follow every jot and tittle. However, Jesus said that the law would not pass away until "it is all accomplished." Well, Jesus DID accomplish the whole of the law, thus, the law has passed away.

History confirms this. At this point, it is not possible to obey every jot and tittle of the law. There is no Temple, no priesthood, there are no Levites. We cannot tithe properly, according to the law. We cannot sacrifice, according to the law. We cannot make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, according to the Law. And who is going to bring back stoning of the adulterers or the rebellious sons? There is not a single person alive who can obey every jot and tittle of the law. And that has been true since 70AD.

Why is this? Because, first, Jesus fulfilled the law and so we, in Him, have the law fulfilled. Secondly, because the authorities of the Law-- the priests and the elders-- are the ones who declared the innocent Son of God to be a liar and a blasphemer and to be worthy of death. They defiled all the temple, all the priesthood, all the sanhedrin, and so they were unworthy to obey. They continued to persecute and martyr the innocent, and so God destroyed these institutions, even as He did in the sixth century BC. And He has chosen not to revive them.

This is not to say that the current Jewish fulfilling of the law, or yours my friend, is a sin. Absolutely not. It is a positive discipline. But let no one deceive themselves into thinking that they are obeying the law better than one who only obeys Jesus without concern for Moses. No one CAN fulfill the law of Moses today. Most Sabbath keepers recognize that they are only keeping part of the Mosaic law, not the whole. Jewish rabbis recognize that they are only obeying as much of the law as they can, praying instead of sacrificing, but that they are following the oral Torah, not the written, because they are unable to follow the written. Yet Jesus was talking about following the written, not the oral, even as he mentioned the actual writing.

We can only shake our heads and recognize that we are weak, living in the midst of a weak world. We cannot obey God as we please, as it seems necessary to us. Rather, we must fall upon the mercy of God, and ask for His pardon. Then, in the grace of Jesus, we stand up in the Spirit and love God and love our neighbor with all that we have. And in this, we are obeying the whole of the law.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How Poor Must We Be To Be "Blessed"?

I got this email from a friend:

I have become highly critical of the cultural and spiritual repurcussions of the dominant message of Christianity in America being defined by middle and upper class churches, magazine publishers, book publishers, radio station owners, and radio preachers. Modern translations of the Bible themselves have copyrights which presumably would help to pay the research costs, which must have long ago been paid for. The NIV publishers are simply making a profit now off of the word of God. This has led me to value poverty.. both fiscal and of spirit. But I wonder how to measure it. When am I poor enough? Jesus viewed fiscal poverty as a virtue. What is the qualitative measure of being poor-enough to be virtuous? Is it income? Possessions? Dependence? What factor does state-dependence play? I'm interested in fiscal answers, not psyche. We'll save poverty of spirit for another time.

My response:

I don't know that Jesus actually put a measure on poverty. Paul did, he said, "If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content." I Timothy 6:8, but Paul also didn't say that having more than this was necessarily wrong.

The concept of "poverty" is typically wrong, I think, if we try to apply a fiscal measure. A great economist, Amartya Sen, said that poverty has less to do with what one has, than the societal measure of what one has. For instance, a family may live very well in Africa without electricity, but to do so in the U.S. is to threaten your children to be taken away from you.

Jesus' measure of poverty seems to be two things: first of all, being an outcast for the sake of Jesus and for those who need love. In other words, this measure of poverty has to do with social acceptance rather than any economic measure. This is a matter of persecution, which always has to do with the meeting of one's needs, as social acceptance to a certain degree is part of having one's needs met, but isn't necessarily about how much money one has in the bank. I am reminded of Clarence Jordan who, because he had a community of mixed blacks and whites, was not allowed to shop in the local stores even though he had the money for it. He was certainly poor, even though by a fiscal measure he was not.

The second measure Jesus puts to poverty is the surrender of what one has to meet the needs of those around us. This is where there is a contrast between the rich and the poor in the NT. Not so much that the rich have wealth, but that they keep it for their own personal use. There were a number of well-accepted wealthy people in the church, but these wealthy people also used their homes, servants, finances, food, possessions for the sake of those who were needy, as well as for their family and friends and their own power. They used what resources they had for those who didn't have as much. Jesus talks of it as a "surrender" of one's possessions. So I can have a house in my name, which makes me wealthy, but I use that house to bring in homeless folks. I have a DVD collection, but I use it for my household and church. Thus, it is not strictly "poverty" we are seeking, but extreme generosity-- a lifestyle of charity.

What the disciples did-- simply walking away from their homes and their business resources-- was acceptable. It was still a surrender. But I think that Jesus' command to surrender to the needy is the greater command.

I hope this answers your question. Somewhat.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thank You, Benny!

Found in Religion Today Summaries:

Pope Blames Church's Sins for Scandal

Washington Times reports that Pope Benedict XVI laid the blame for the ongoing abuse scandal on the heads of pedophile priests. The pontiff's Tuesday message did not attitribute any of the scandal to media exaggeration. "The greatest persecution of the church doesn't come from enemies on the outside but is born from the sins within the church," the pontiff said. "The church needs to profoundly relearn penitence, accept purification, learn forgiveness but also justice." Multiple bishops have resigned as their actions have come to light, severely tarnishing the trust the Catholic Church once held. The pope, who made his remarks on a trip to Portugal, said the current scandal has outstripped previous problems the church may have had. "[T]oday we see it (the Church) in a truly terrifying way," he said.

When the leadership acknowledges sin, that is the first step to a church's repentance. Now Pope Benedict must acknowledge his own responsibility for allowing the sin and true healing can begin.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

What's My Grace?

God is less impressed with those who have a tremendous amount of theological grace than those who display grace in their lives. It's one thing to say that God has abundant grace, but unless we show it ourselves, no one will believe it.

For this reason, severe judgment will be put on people if they reject practical mercy and grace and forgiveness in their lives. God reserves hell for those who put other people through hell now.

"If you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions."

"For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment."