Shakespeare, Jesus, and Lawyers (Pt. One)

Please read Matthew 15:1-20 in your Bible.  Then examine the following to see if your spirit agrees.  I have prepared these remarks using the NIV.

Legalism is one of the disguises hypocrisy wears to conceal ungodliness.

“Few people are unfamiliar with the phrase, The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers. Rueful, mocking, it often expresses the ordinary person’s frustration with the arcana and complexity of law. Sometimes it’s known that the saying comes from one of Shakespeare’s plays, but usually there’s little awareness beyond that. This gap in knowledge has inspired a myth of ‘correction,’ where it is ‘explained’ that this line is intended as a praise of lawyers.

“Whoever first came up with this interpretation surely must have been a lawyer.  The line is actually uttered by a character ‘Dick the Butcher.’ While he’s a killer as evil as his name implies, he often makes highly comedic and amusing statements.

“The “kill the lawyers” statement is the ending portion of a comedic relief part of a scene in Henry VI, part 2. Dick and another henchman, Smith are members of the gang of Jack Cade, a pretender to the throne. The build-up is a long portion where Cade makes vain boasts, which are cut down by sarcastic replies from the others. For example:

JACK CADE
I thank you, good people:- there shall be no money; all shall eat and drink on my score; and I will apparel them all in one livery, that they may agree like brothers, and worship me their lord.

DICK.
The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.

“The audience must have doubled over in laughter at this.  Far from being ‘out of context’ the usage is more true to the original than most people know.

“In fact, Shakespeare used lawyers as figures of derision on several occasions.

“As long as there are lawyers, there will be “lawyer jokes”. And lawyers will show how those jokes ring true by trying to explain how such lampooning really constitutes praise for their profession, thus by example justifying the jokes more than ever.”

(Posted in 1997 by Seth Finkelstein at http://www.spectacle.org/797/finkel.html, retrieved on 06/19/17.)

  1. The Picky (1+2).

The Pharisees & lawyers were “picky” in the usual sense that they fussed over details, abusing the Law to further their own ends. Everyone knew the hand-washing regulations were not part of the Law given to Moses but were only a tradition started by rabbis.  In Jesus’ time these rules were not widely enforced, so these guys were trying too hard to find fault with Jesus.

Here is one example of their tradition regarding hand-washing: “If a man poured water over the one hand with a single rinsing, his hand is clean: but if over both hands with a single rinsing, Rabbi Meir declares them unclean unless he pours over them a quarter-log or more.” (M Yadaim 2:1)

The Pharisees and lawyers were also “picky” in that they were trying to pick a fight with Jesus.  They wanted to make Him look like a bad Jew. Note that these religious professionals were from Jerusalem.   They went all the way up to Galilee to find Jesus and “put Him in His place.”  In spite of their effort, all they could find to confront Him about was the behavior of his disciples at dinner time.

This sounds petty to us and it was petty, but not in the minds of these religious leaders.  When people are being legalistic, petty matters are molehills made to sound like mountains.  This is a word of warning to us about legalism; it is used because it provides a cover for pettiness.  Complaints that may be true in principle but not practicality are being used this way.  Be wary of this practice.

THE TRADITION OF THE ELDERS was a body of rules written by religious leaders over several generations called the “Halakah.”  The Pharisees attached a great deal of importance to this document and attempted to meet its requirements every day.  It was so complicated that a new profession arose to help people navigate its requirements: these are the TEACHERS OF THE LAW mentioned here.  We might call them “temple lawyers.”

Literacy was still not a common skill, so these TRADITIONS were largely maintained orally; the rabbi would train his students in them by having them recite them aloud.  This rote method of teaching was the main way these TRADITIONS were preserved in succeeding generations.

  1. The Pig in a Poke (3-9).

Continuing our earlier connection with English literature, we understand the expression “buying a pig in a poke” to be an old English phrase that refers to buying something without seeing or knowing anything about it first.  A “poke” is another word for sack.  (The word “pocket” is derived from it – a “pokette” is a small sack.) It is not wise to buy without first opening the sack to check the condition of the pig!

The Pharisees attempted to sell Jesus a “pig in a poke” in their criticism of His disciples’ lack of hand washing etiquette.  However, Jesus wasn’t buying it.  He opened the sack and exposed the contents.  Jesus exposed their legalism as hypocrisy – choosing their own traditions over God’s Law

God’s Law was clearly stated: children are to honor (obey) their parents.  Exodus 20:12 is the 5th Commandment; “HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER, SO THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG IN THE LAND THE LORD YOUR GOD IS GIVING YOU.”  Jesus also quoted Exodus 21:17 which gave the penalty for violating this commandment: death.  Think God takes this seriously?  Yes, He does.

Jesus said this clear command had been nullified by a tradition created by the kind of people who were accusing Him.  Leviticus 27:9+16 allowed for property and real estate to be designated as “Corban,” a state of dedication to the Lord (see Mark 7:11).  This was to last until the next Year of Jubilee.  Perhaps on this basis, they created a rule that a man could dedicate assets to the temple.  If so, when his parents appealed to him for help, he could say to them, “I’d love to help you out, but my property is given over to the temple and I’m strapped for cash.”

With that kind of clear self-interest, the religious leaders created a way to make money and an excuse for the living to refuse all requests for philanthropy.  In our time, it would be a combination tax shelter and charitable trust.  Or it might be “fraud.”  Jesus’ point is simple; hypocrites will attempt to wallpaper their crimes in pages from law books in order to excuse their violations of God’s Law and/or make themselves appear godly when their hearts are nowhere near God.

In case you’re not yet seeing it, let me assure you this is a full-bore rebuke by Jesus.  It is the first time in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus referred to the Pharisees and lawyers – or anyone – as HYPOCRITES.

Jesus quoted from Isaiah 29:13 using the Word of God to expose the true intent of their hearts.  In effect, He rebuked them saying, “You believe you’re preserving traditions, but in reality, you’re guilty of the same hypocrisy the prophet Isaiah exposed.”

They replaced true faith which resides in one’s heart with superficialities.  Instead of enacting the will of God, they misused the Law to force their will on others.  The result: their worship was wasted because the rules they followed were just human notions, not the will of God.

Legalism is one of the disguises hypocrisy wears to conceal ungodliness.

We must understand what legalism is.  I offer the reader five views of the subject that will attempt to define this sin and enable us to avoid manifesting it in our daily living.

Legalism is a complicated attempt to create rules that make us look good while relieving us of the hard work of character.

Legalism is an attempt to cloud the condition of the heart by burying the matter in complications.  It is the old “smoke and mirrors” approach to misdirection.

Legalism mimics God’s Law, but is thoroughly man-made.  It is thereby not authoritative for all who believe.

Legalism misuses tradition by asserting that the old ways are the only right ways.

Legalism is selfishly motivated and attempts to please one’s self; where true righteousness is focused on God and desires to please Him.  We humans seem to have an infinite capacity to make excuses and manipulate words to justify self and/or condemn others.  We need a higher authority.

The Jewish religious leaders in this passage are long dead and so are some of their teachings.  But the practice of legalism is alive and well.  It has users in the Church and outside it; the dogmatism of “political correctness” is a modern manifestation of legalism.

Indeed, the practice of legalism is so common (inside and outside the Church) and its consequences are so serious, the Lord has impressed on me the necessity of studying this passage in detail.  Part Two will examine further aspects of Jesus’ condemnation of legalism.

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Love Does It

(Please read Romans 13:8-10 in your favorite Bible. I use the NIV in my study.)

A man and his wife were driving home from church one Sunday morning.  After a few moments of comfortable silence, the woman said, “Cindy is sure putting on weight.  Do you think she’s pregnant?”

“I didn’t notice, dear,” the man replied.

“Well, did you see how short Diane’s skirt was?  And at her age!”

“I’m sorry, dear.  I didn’t notice.”

“Surely you noticed the way the Smiths let their kids crawl all over everything during fellowship?”

“No, I didn’t see that either.”

“Honestly!” the woman said, disgusted.  “I don’t even know why you go to church anymore!”

Why ARE you here?

Let me suggest the best reason of all: to give and receive love.  Church is where we learn about love; it is like a rehearsal and pep rally where we are reminded about the essential importance of love and given a chance to practice it before we return to the world and put it to work.

Love is what we have received from God.  It is the reason we celebrate in worship and the object of our prayers.

Love motivates us to keep God’s commands.

  1. Love is a DEBT in the sense that we “owe” it to one another.

The first part of v. 8 is good financial advice.  V. 8 relates back to v. 7, which is about keeping our monetary obligations, mentioning TAXES and REVENUE.  The Gk word for OWE in v. 7 comes from the same root as the word DEBT in v. 8.  This is a chain of thought in Paul’s mind.

LET NO DEBT REMAIN OUTSTANDING takes v. 7 and generalizes it into a principle which can guide many of our daily decisions.  Financial counselors will tell you to avoid debt wherever possible.  Debt has a way of crushing our finances and straining our relationships.  It’s a kind of stress that should be avoided.  When debt is unavoidable, the next best thing is to pay it off as soon as possible, to not let it REMAIN OUTSTANDING.

On the other hand, Jesus taught “Do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” in Matthew 5:42.  Money should be the same as ministry in the eyes of a believer.

Church Father Origen wrote, “The debt of love is permanent, and we never get out of it; for we pay it daily and yet always own it.”

God has commanded us to love, that’s why we owe it to one another. In the Old Testament we find the command to love evident in the following passages.

– Love God = Deuteronomy 6:5 = LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.

– Love your neighbor = Leviticus 19:18 = DO NOT SEEK REVENGE OR BEAR A GRUDGE AGAINST ONE OF YOUR PEOPLE, BUT LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.  I AM THE LORD.

In the New Testament the command to love is affirmed by Jesus and the apostles.

– In Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus said, “LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.  THIS IS THE FIRST AND GREATEST COMMANDMENT.  AND THE SECOND IS LIKE IT: LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.  ALL THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS HANG ON THESE TWO COMMANDMENTS.”

– Peter wrote, ABOVE ALL LOVE EACH OTHER DEEPLY, BECAUSE LOVE COVERS OVER A MULTITUDE OF SINS. (1 Peter 4:8)

  1. Love is the fulfillment of every point of God’s Law.

Paul sets forth the principle in vs. 8+10: LOVE IS THE FULFILLMENT OF THE LAW.  This is true because LOVE is the highest, best, and most reliable motive for keeping the LAW.

One way we know whether or not any word or deed is loving is to subject it to the standard set forth in v. 10: LOVE DOES NO HARM TO A NEIGHBOR.  Love is distinguished by always wanting more for the other person than for self.  Love motivates us to avoid doing anything harmful.  Of course this means causing physical, mental, or reputational pain – harm of any kind.  Love takes a positive approach every time.

The literal meaning of NEIGHBOR is “one who is near.”  This means that the application of this command is universal – all the people we meet.

Paul offers four specific examples of how we’re to treat our NEIGHBOR in verse nine.

First, everyone who truly loves will not be guilty of committing ADULTERY.  Our English word ADULTERY translates the Greek word porneia.

It is the Bible’s base word for all kinds of sexual sin.  Whether a person is married or single, this one term covers all forms of this kind of sin.

ADULTERY is not restricted to the physical acts of disobedience, but encompasses all the attitudes of the heart that put satisfaction of self ahead of devotion to God.  For example, in Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus condemned

LUST as an act that makes a person as guilty of ADULTERY as the physical relationship.

Those who love keep their eyes and heart devoted to their beloved, so they are never guilty of ADULTERY in an emotional or spiritual sense or a physical one.  Marriage is the one relationship where sexuality is approved.

Second, everyone who truly loves will not commit MURDER.  This word does not refer to capital punishment or acts of violence in defense of self or the innocent.  Some Christians believe this command forbids all forms of violence, but that is not what the text says.

Of course, there are other kinds of violence.  Jesus taught that whoever condemns his brother is in as much danger of hell as whoever commits murder (see Matthew 5:21-22).  Once again, unloving attitudes are as much sin as unloving acts.

Third, everyone who truly loves will not STEAL.  Stealing is an offense to God for many reasons, but at its base it is a refusal to respect others and their rights to private property.  The idea of DOMINION or ownership goes back to Genesis 1+2.  Those who steal disrespect the dominion God has given others over their property.

Of course, people routinely steal things other than property and are thereby as guilty of stealing as someone who pinches physical goods.  For example, the sins of gossip, lying, backbiting, and slander are sins because they steal from another person’s reputation.

Fourth, everyone who truly loves will not be guilty of coveting.  To COVET is to be so materialistic that you desire things you do not own.  It may be a prelude to stealing.  It is a sin because it is a selfish irritation and dissatisfaction with what God has provided.  It betrays a lack of faith & trust in God.

The truly loving person will not COVET because they will care more about the owner than the item.  They will recognize that the owner and their treatment of him will continue into eternity, but the thing in question will not.

All of these examples are problems that would be solved if we loved our neighbor as ourselves, if we kept the Golden Rule.  Notice how Jesus expressed this in Matthew 7:12: “IN EVERYTHING, DO TO OTHERS WHAT YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO TO YOU, FOR THIS SUMS UP THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS.”  Does that sound familiar?  That’s exactly what Paul wrote!  Imagine what kind of a home, church, community and world we would have if everyone abided by this foundational ethical principle.  It is simple, portable, and it works.

Love motivates us to keep God’s commands.

“Almost a century ago, two young medical school graduates, along with their doctor father, tried an important experiment. They built a small sanitarium on a farm outside Topeka, Kansas (USA). Oftentimes patients were sent to impersonal institutions where they might remain their entire lives.
“The doctors were Charles Menninger and his sons Karl and William. The Menningers had a different idea. Their sanitarium would not be impersonal. They were determined to create a loving, family atmosphere among their patients and staff. Their vision was to grow a community of doctors, nurses and support staff that would cooperate to heal patients.
“To this end, nurses were given special training and were told, ‘Let each person know how much you value them. Shower these people with love.’ Many of the patients received more love and kindness at the Menninger Sanitarium than they had ever experienced before.
“The treatment worked – spectacularly.  [At the end of the first six months, the time people spent in the institution was cut in half.] The experiment was a resounding success and the Menninger’s revolutionary approach to healing and their radical (for that time) methods became world famous.
“Karl Menninger later wrote numerous books and became a leading figure in American psychiatry. ‘Love cures people,’ Menninger wrote, ‘both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.’ His work demonstrated just how true that statement is.”

<Retrieved from http://stevegoodier.blogspot.com/2014/12/a-conspiracy-of-love.html on 1/20/17.>

“Love cures people,” that’s a quote worth remembering, isn’t it?  We’ve learned today that love helps us keep God’s commands: indeed, it is His greatest commandment.  Love is the most important thing.

The flipside of love is holiness.  To be genuine, you can’t have one without the other.  Holiness is the practice of love in our relationships, the things we do that are in keeping with God’s commands.

One of the chief places where love shows up or is conspicuously absent is in our conversations.  The words we say and the way in which we say them goes a long way in revealing whether we are truly in Christ or not and that’s why the NT spends so much time on them.

(If you’d like to see the video version of this message,

Putting on Heirs

Please read Galatians 3:23-29.  My remarks were prepared with the New Living Translation.

INTRODUCTION

Bill Bradley and Jack Kemp are two men who have enjoyed success as professional athletes and as politicians on the national stage.  The two men played different sports, so they never faced one another in competition, but they were on opposite sides of the aisle in Washington, D.C.  Bradley is a Democrat and Kemp was a Republican (he died in 2009).

It was through their time in professional athletics that these men learned life-long lessons on the subject of race.  They learned to do better than tolerate their black teammates, they came to respect them and ceased to see skin color as any kind of barrier to playing ball or living life.

When he was Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Jack Kemp wrote, “I couldn’t face my friends Ernie Ladd, Cookie Gilchrist, or Tippy Day or all the black football players I know and lived with and lost and won with, if I weren’t their voice in the [president’s] cabinet.”

In his book More Than Equals, Chris Rice wrote the following, “Racial reconciliation shouldn’t begin with a debate over affirmative action and quotas – or theology.  It’s about getting to know names and faces.  Build relationships and share in your new friends’ concerns for their families and communities.  Go into the neighborhood.  Visit the church.  Let their experience speak to your life.”

<Both quotes are retrieved from the December 26, 2001 devotional in Men of Integrity magazine.>

Today is Flag Day.  Let’s note something about Old Glory.  Do you see more than one color here?  Each of these colors have an important symbolic meaning and each contributes to the whole flag.  Old Glory would be less glorious if any of these colors were deleted.  LET THE SAME THINGS BE SAID OF OUR CHURCH!  Let’s see what God said.

Context: This letter deals with the problems caused by false teachers who insisted that non-Jews had to become Jews before they could properly become Christians.

Message: What has always mattered most is God’s love.  One of the beneficial effects of His love is that it unites us, makes us one family under our Heavenly Father.

Comment:

  1. We were formerly orphans under the guardianship of the Law (3:23-25).

Paul comments on life under the Law of Moses as a “B.C.” state = “Before Christ.”  V. 23 = BEFORE THE WAY OF FAITH IN CHRIST WAS AVAILABLE TO US.

– Comment #1 = Faith in Christ is a way of life, a worldview, an approach to daily living that is all-encompassing.

– Comment #2 = The Law of Moses (what made Israel the people of God, a part of what made Jews “Jewish”) was only a temporary measure.  v. 23 = UNTIL THE WAY OF FAITH WAS REVEALED.

– Comment #3 = The purpose of the Law was to protect God’s people.

–  V. 23 = WE WERE PLACED UNDER GUARD…KEPT IN PROTECTIVE CUSTODY.  (Even the verb here is in the passive voice!)

– V.24 = THE LAW WAS OUR GUARDIAN…IT PROTECTED US.

– The word translated here as “guardian” is the Gk word from which we get “pedagogue.”  The word referred to people who had custody of children to train them.  Children born in wealthy houses went from mother to wet nurse to pedagogue, who later took them to a teacher for book learning.  They were completely responsible for their charges; if the child misbehaved, it was the pedagogue who was punished!

– This is obviously a temporary situation; sooner or later the child grows up and can govern herself.  The pedagogue works themselves out of a job, preparing the child to be responsible and mature and self-sufficient for the day when the family says they are old enough to be an adult.  Paul used this common cultural practice to illustrate the state of godly people under the Law.

– V. 25 = NOW THAT THE WAY OF FAITH HAS COME, WE NO LONGER NEED THE LAW AS OUR GUARDIAN.  Though we don’t all mature, we do all age, and there comes a time when children cease to be children and become adults, responsible for themselves.  It was at this time a male child became a citizen and his father’s heir.

The WAY OF FAITH is a system of greater freedom, more responsibility, and more power to decide for ourselves.  Paul uses this illustration to show that the false teachers were false because they failed to understand that in the new agreement instituted by Jesus Christ, we “graduated” from childhood to adulthood.  Just as it is ridiculous to sleep in the nursery when one has “grown up,” so it is for these false teachers to lie and say it was necessary for us to live in the spiritual nursery when we are adults & heirs with Christ.

From what did the Law protect us?

– From the sinful and human sides of our natures.

– From our ignorance of the will of God.

– From the influence of the Enemy who tempts us to sin & accuses of guilt when we give into temptation.

– Note that the Law did not SOLVE these problems, it offered protection as a temporary alleviation.

A couple of caveats:

– Being in custody, even PROTECTIVE CUSTODY, is still nothing like freedom.  It is in our human nature to chafe under restraint and to yearn for freedom.

– Being in the custody of the Law is more pleasant than being PRISONERS OF SIN (v. 22).  So the law was given to protect us from the death penalty to which PRISONERS OF SIN are subject.

Paul’s comment on life of faith in Jesus Christ, under God’s new covenant, as a part of God’s new people, the Church is revealed in his repeated use of t word UNTIL:

– V. 23 = UNTIL THE WAY OF FAITH WAS REVEALED.

– V. 24 = UNTIL CHRIST CAME…UNTIL WE COULD BE MADE RIGHT WITH CHRIST.

It’s clear a new situation exists.  He spends the next four verses explaining God’s final solution.

  1. We are now God’s children and part of one family (3:26-29).

God’s people have gone from being under a guardianship to being adopted into the family of God.  How did this happen?  Jesus Christ did it for all people and we who receive it by faith are privileged to be children of God.

Note Paul’s use of inclusive language.

–  V. 26 = YOU ARE ALL CHILDREN OF GOD THROUGH FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS.  The Gk word ALL here is in emphatic voice and it is the first word in the sentence.

– V. 27 = ALL WHO HAVE BEEN UNITED WITH CHRIST IN BAPTISM.  Some scholars believe vs. 27+28 are part of a liturgy that was used in the early Church when baptisms were performed, to explain the significance of baptism.  The imagery of PUTTING ON NEW CLOTHES is a way of describing taking on the characteristics of someone, like a child putting on daddy’s shirt and acting like him.

– V. 28 = YOU’RE ALL ONE IN CHRIST JESUS.  This teaching is found elsewhere in Paul’s letters: (see 1 Corinthians 7:17-28; 12:13; Colossians 3:11).

The effects of God’s gracious action to adopt us are profound and they set worldly ways of thinking on their ear. For example, according to verse 28, there are no longer any earthly divisions that matter.  We’re not saying that they cease to exist, but that they cease to matter.  What once divided us divides us no more. What matters is that we are one family.

– We are one family; not JEWS or GENTILES.  That distinction no longer determines membership in God’s family.  (This one is the most relevant to Paul’s argument.)

– We are one family; not SLAVES or FREEBORN.  That distinction no longer entitles one set of people to human rights and denies them to another set.

– We are one family; not MALE or FEMALE.  That distinction determined inheritance of property in the ancient world but it does not make us heirs with Christ.

Paul may have chosen these three comparisons because they are exactly counter to the prayer a pious Jew made every morning, thanking God for not making him a Gentile, a slave, or a woman!  Or he may have selected these three as representative of the three most basic human relationships – religious, civil, and familial.  Ungodly folk use these distinctives as excuses for division and injustice, but not in the Church!  In the Church we affirm that we are ALL ONE IN CHRIST JESUS!

As verse 29 teaches, it is by faith we accept God’s gracious offer of adoption and that place us in a very privileged position.  Here are the great things that are true NOW THAT YOU BELONG TO CHRIST:

– YOU ARE THE TRUE CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM.  The Jews held a great deal of pride as being the legitimate sons of Abraham.  In fact, John the Baptist dealt with this arrogance; “PROVE BY THE WAY YOU LIVE THAT YOU HAVE REPENTED OF YOUR SINS AND TURNED TO GOD.  DON’T JUST SAY TO EACH OTHER, ‘WE’RE SAFE, FOR WE ARE DESCENDANTS OF ABRAHAM.’  THAT MEANS NOTHING, FOR I TELL YOU, GOD CAN CREATE CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM FROM THESE VERY STONES.” (Luke 3:9)  This is what TRUE means in v. 29.  Apart from prideful claims & arrogant complacency, anyone can – by faith, not birth – become an heir & receive what God promised Abraham.

– YOU ARE HIS HEIRS, AND GOD’S PROMISE TO ABRAHAM BELONGS TO YOU.  This is Paul sticking it directly to the Judaizers in the Galatian church.  They were guilty of the same arrogance and pride John the Baptist confronted, as proven by their insistence that non-Jewish believers become Jews first.  The heart of their pride was their claim of Abraham as their true father, so Paul reveals pointedly that ALL who are IN CHRIST are Abraham’s true heirs.

CONCLUSION

What’s the difference between friction and traction?  After all, both of them involve two objects rubbing against one another.  The difference is that friction only generates heat, but traction generates movement.  To what kind of church family do you want to belong – the kind that is merely abrasive or the kind that gets somewhere?

Think about it a minute.  Who do you think is going to solve the problem of prejudice?  How about the problem of poverty?  Equal pay for equal work?  The government and the media claim to have been working on these issues for fifty years or more – have we seen any progress?  Are these problems going to be solved by any worldly means?

The obvious answer is no.  We will see real change come from the Church because only the Church – with all her problems – is connected to the real source of truth and power, God.  The Church will accomplish this by turning one soul at a time toward God.  Change the people and the laws will follow.  Change the culture by changing the attitude of one person at a time.  Heal the nation by healing yourself and your neighbor. What we need to do is all the things that contribute to traction.

What’s a “Chukim?”

The Bible is the authority for all matters of faith and practice because it reveals God’s will to God’s people.  In order to be faithful followers, we must learn what the Bible says and apply it to our daily living (see 2 Timothy 2:15).

However, the call to study does not imply that all can be understood.  The command to “hide” God’s word in our heart (see Psalm 119:11) does not promise that living in the word while in the world will be easy or make us respected.  Anyone who tells you they’ve got it all figured out is selling you a lie.

“Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.”        (Leviticus 19:19c, NIV.)

Without getting into a single interpretational issue, let me tell you my purpose.  I offer this single statement of divine Law as an example of a chukim, a Jewish term for biblical laws that come to us unexplained.  We’re left to figure it out ourselves, to guess at why cloth with mixed fibers is in the same list of sins as stealing, lying, blasphemy, and sorcery.

Here’s how some people approach it.  They hire a Shatnez Tester to go through their wardrobe and determine what clothing is kosher and what is not.  “Shatnez” is the Hebrew word for “mixed fibers” and I do not have space enough to describe how meticulously these people do their work (hint: they use a microscope).

(QUICK CAVEAT: Let there be nothing in the preceding that seems to deprecate in any way people who are concerned enough about keeping God’s commands that they go to these lengths.  My purpose is to offer a contrast, but not at the expense of condemning someone else’s sincere service to God.  I plead with the reader to see no disrespect is intended.)

OR, we could take Jesus’ approach:

1) Simplify the Law to love (see Matthew 22:34-40).

2) The spirit of the Law trumps the letter, especially where human needs can be met (see Matthew 12:1-14).

3) Resist the urge to allow petty personal opinion masquerade as law (see Colossians 2:6-23).