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Larry - KY

This brings up a question I ponder a lot concerning the Law, whether we mean explicit (published) Law like the Ten Commandments or implicit (natural) law as seen in nature and written upon our hearts. What, I often think, is the prime or real sin against the Law? Here’s what I mean: You have a command that says “don’t do X” (or a positive “do Y”). Is the failure against the law “disobedience” as we normally perceive the nuance of that word and likewise “obedience”. OR is the REAL failure not disobedience/obedience per se but the fact that you don’t naturally “just do it” from the heart, relationally, without the command? Because there is a way to speak of the term “command” and it’s just a “military” type of idea, yet there is another way, rarely though understood this way, that “command” can mean and have a heartful filial-ness to it. We could say the same with “obedience”, “disobedience” and similar terms. If one is “obedient” “militarily” one could still be devoid of the heart. I often wonder what did the ears of pre-fallen Adam and Eve hear when they heard the Lord say not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Did they hear a “military command” or something so naturally to their hearts to do it wasn’t command but a “loving command” if you will. Attempting to give these word’s a nuance is difficult so I’m using these adjectives “military command/obedience/disobedience” Vs. “loving command/obedience” as antithetical ideas.

The reason I ask this is that one hears the “law” kind of preached but its more the “military” nuance of “be obedient”, in more conservative circles, as opposed to the “filial” or ‘from a true heart’. It seems to me that the preaching of the Law, at least in my experience, that touched at the heart level, I wasn’t doing it, is the real “cutting to the heart”. I recall the first time the Law, though I didn’t think of it that way (law), was preached along with the cross to me and what cut me more than anything was not rank disobedience, I had heard that before and it only hardened my resolve. But rather that finally I saw it at the heart level. It was in a sense seeing the real love of God, altruistic, and seeing myself against that as utterly “selfish” and that broke me to see myself for who I really was. The agony, if we can use that term correctly, was not the agony of “you’ve disobeyed this tyrant god whose been holding you down”, that view of god only always hardened me more. No, the real agony was that God on the Cross for me, seeing that love (Law) in action, and then I couldn’t stand to see myself next to that kind of love. Seeing me against that “love” (love = law, real love) was too much to bear and that broke through the hardness of my heart. Now, I admit that’s my own experience.

So, it has always bothered me for people, particularly the ministry, to say they are bothered as God only being preached as “love”. I understand what they are reacting against in liberal circles because “love” is being used differently for God. But more often than not those “more conservative” types reacting against “God is love” more “liberal” preaching only go over to the “god the tyrant” type of law. It seems to me neither understand Law or Love or The God of Law which is ultimately true Love. It’s that true altruistic love, however, that we really violate and not just military disobedience. To my ear a person or pastor that conveys the “military God, military law” makes me hear much like the younger son, the prodigal, reacting against the older son’s interpretation of the father. But on the other hand when I hear a more liberal false god/law/love there is a tendency for my conservative older brother side raise up and react as the older son did. It’s when the God of Law/love as revealed at the prodigal’s return, the father kissing him on the neck, embarrassing himself is preached that the reaction is just like the prodigal’s, “I’m unworthy to be called your son” arises. Which is in fact the same as saying, “have mercy on me a sinner”, “depart from me I’m a sinful man”, “woe to me I am undone” and etc…

To me that’s the real preaching of the Law and the hardest of all to do. It’s easy as pie to preach a military conservative “law”, it takes no brains or effort whatsoever to muster up that kind of speech. And it’s easy to preach a “love” and by extension liberal law for the same reasons. It’s easy as pie to preach like either the younger or older son, but the real challenge is to preach the REAL law. Because it has to get to the heart level and thus show one what one is. The other “law” sermons only lead to further hardening one way or the other. To me it takes an incredible turning of words to do this in a “proclamation” way. E.g. how do you ‘get across’ the nuance of command other than the army type of command which will only serve to harden the open sinner to flee deeper into the far off land, and delude more the false saint into thinking they are the good obedient elder son? To me the “law” doesn’t really come about to life until the Cross is preached with it or connected.

Do we have in the liberal church circles one gigantic younger son prodigal and in the conservative church circles one gigantic older son? Because often if you listen to exchanges between the two you can “hear” that “those two sons” type of conversation going on in their language to each other with the older brother driving the younger brother out of the land.

That’s why I cringe when I hear some say liberals preach that God is only love and they should not. Well, yes they do preach it with love being wrong, but technically speaking God is exemplified by His Holy Law and His Holy Law is summed up as love in a way we refuse to understand, utterly altruistic. And that altruistic selfless love, THAT, is what drives true conviction, not the military idea of “law” and obedience. Disobedience, then it seems, has its roots in that “military” type of obedience and disobedience, that is no love at all. On this side of grace the “military law” begins to transform into the “loving law”. Because nothing chaffs both a liberal law preacher/person and a conservative law preacher/person more than to show BOTH of them that any “law they do” is utterly unloving. And THAT kind of reaction, even if it is just guessed at and slung at them, proves that their ‘law doing’ (or preaching) was no love at all and hence no law at all. For the very angry reaction proves that the ‘law doing’ they are mad about because one said it was unloving (and by extension not really the holy Law) shows that in fact was and still is unloving. Because if it was truly “loving” (and truly Holy Law) even if it is rejected as loving, then they’d be silent before the shearers as was Jesus.

Larry – KY

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