Friday, May 27, 2011

Torah Love

"Love does not do harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fullness of Torah." Romans 13:10 (Complete Jewish Bible)

I have been studying Law (Torah) and how it relates to a Christ-follower's freedom in the Messiah. Because it was/is impossible for humans to follow all the laws contained in the Torah, the sacrifice of an unblemished Lamb was required for redemption. It is in this state of grace, Christ-followers are free to make their own choices. Our love for God is demonstrated in these choices.

"Now before the time for this trusting faithfulness came, we were imprisoned in subjection to the system which results from perverting the Torah into legalism... the Torah functioned as a custodian until the Messiah came, so that we might be declared righteous on the ground of trusting and being faithful... For in union with the Messiah, you are all children of God through this trusting faithfulness..." Galatians 3:23-29 (CJB)

By trusting in God and being in union with the Messiah, we are now free! "What the Messiah has freed us for is freedom!" Galatians 5:1 (CJB) This is not a freedom to do whatever feels good and right to us as human beings. "Do not let that freedom become an excuse for allowing your old nature to have its way. Instead serve one another in love. For the whole of the Torah is summed up in one sentence: "Love your neighbor as yourself..." If you are led by the Spirit, then you are not in subjection to the system that results from perverting Torah into legalism."

The "old nature" has many extremes. It wants to control others by imposing rules no one can follow perfectly! It wants to abuse others for gain or pleasure. It never wants to experience guilt because (in a world view devised by humans) there is no moral absolute. "It is perfectly evident what the old nature does. It expresses itself in sexual immorality, impurity and indecency; involvement with the occult and drugs; in feuding, fighting, becoming jealous and getting angry; in selfish ambition, factionalism, intrigue and envy; in drunkenness, orgies and things like these..." Galatians 5:19-21 (CJB)

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, self-control. Nothing in the Torah stands against such things." Galatians 5:22-23 (CJB)

The "old nature" is what humans struggle against every day. Humans with a biblical world view are aware of this struggle. God has provided us with the tools to live in trusting faithfulness. We have his Word to read and study for answers to all of our questions. We have a direct link to his guidance and help through prayer. We have other Christ-followers to turn to when we need God-inspired advice for a difficult situation. We must use these tools and seek the fruit of the Spirit in every decision. Every "old nature" choice can be forgiven. However, we may have to suffer the consequences of those actions for the rest of our life.

I started with Romans 13:10. I have been thinking of those who are suffering in the loss of their homes, loved ones, and incomes in the aftermath of the tornado destruction in Joplin, Missouri. I heard a piece this morning on NPR about the problem of looting. In a world where there is no moral absolute, looting would be appropriate. Stealing from others appeals to the "old nature." If there is not a law against taking others' possessions, what is wrong with it? In a world with no moral absolute, stealing wouldn't even be in our vocabulary. At this time, "do not steal" (Exodus 20:15) is part of the law of the United States of America. Despite current law, we are witnessing those at the top of their fields and with plenty of resources steal from their neighbors.

Under the law of Christ, we are under the law of love. "Love does not do harm to a neighbor" is the moral absolute in the biblical world view. Looters harm their neighbors by taking others' possessions. We witness daily instances of humans disregarding law. Prisons are full of humans who disregard law. We also know many (including ourselves) who disregard "love" as the "fullness of Torah." Why? Why do we turn back to the "old nature" with all of its trouble?

"Do not let yourselves be conformed to the standards of the 'olam hazeh (the present age/world). Instead, keep letting yourselves be transformed by the renewing of your minds; so that you will know what God wants and will agree that what he wants is good, satisfying, and able to succeed... Don't let love be a mere outward show. Recoil from what is evil, and cling to what is good." Romans 12:2-9 (CJB)

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