By Elaine Knudtson
“Your Grace Still Amazes Me” as sung by Philips, Dean and Craig
A New and Living Way
The coming of Jesus signaled a change in the old order that relied on the law as the means of pleasing God. Jesus reinterpreted the law as “Love the Lord your God” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He made enemies of those who jealously clung to the old way of interpreting the law and holiness, but he released the poor and lowly, giving them entrance into the Kingdom through His blood.
Dear Lord, we can easily fall into the trap of legalism that narrowly defines what it means to be a “good person.” You expect so much more from us with the challenge to put love of God and neighbor first in our lives. Make us open to seeing ways we can show that love.
“Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you. . .Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. . . Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at the mountain.” (Deut. 4:1-2, 9-10)
“18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” Heb. 12:18-24
A change in leadership often results in optimism and hope as we look forward to a fresh approach and a clearing out of ineffective practices. However, it isn’t long before the enthusiasm fades and we fall in line with new expectations that are often very similar to the old ones with a few cosmetic changes.
The advent of Jesus was the exception. The law had proven to be an impossible taskmaster. It put God and man in conflict, resulting in rebellion and judgement. The benchmark was too high; impossible to reach, so it was ignored and forgotten. By the time Jesus was born, the law had become so overlaid with interpretations that only the learned Pharisees had any hope of following it. Jesus changed all of that. He challenged the Pharisees for their pious hypocrisy and reinterpreted the law as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind and your neighbor as yourself.” Matt. 22:37, 39
Mary’s song speaks of the result of this change:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.50 And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
52 he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.
Points to Ponder
- What rules have you added to the law of love that set you apart from non-Christians? Are they barriers or invitations to seekers?
- Political correctness may seem more accepting than Christian communities. Where is the balance between tolerance of sin and showing love to your neighbor?
Dear Lord, you have provided a new and living way for us to follow you. We need your help to love you with our whole heart, mind and strength and to love our neighbours as ourselves. The way of love can never be exhausted. Give us grace to walk in that way.