Tuesday, June 1, 2010
"Do you know what it is to feel the light of love inside you, and all the darkness falls away?" -Dave Matthews Band
In Romans 2, Paul writes that although God gave the law (Torah) to the Jews, he has also written his law on the hearts of those who are not Jews. I love that God has put his law in our hearts. So many people think about the Old Testament law in a negative way-- too strict, impossible to follow perfectly, and not necessary to Christians anyway because of Jesus. I don't entirely agree with that, though. I can think of a few things Jesus said about the law that tell me it is still important-- for example, in Matthew 5 Jesus says that he didn't come to abolish it, but to fulfill it (in other words, live it out fully). At other times Jesus says that things like love for God and your neighbor and treating others the way you would want them to treat you summarize the law and the prophets. So I don't agree that the law is irrelevant post-Jesus. I think it reveals God's heart and desire for his people. There is no longer a need for atonement whenever we do not live it perfectly, though-- Jesus paid this penalty for us, and this gives us the freedom to have a relationship with God and to follow him the best we can while accepting his grace and forgiveness along the way. Paul also points out that it is what is in our hearts that sets us apart for God, not something outward like circumcision. What is important is not what can be physically observed on the outside; God is looking at us inwardly, in our hearts.
Truth be told, I seriously struggle with where my heart is sometimes. I know that I end up straying into places that I should not be, places that are off limits and are not in line with how God desires for me to live. At the beginning of Romans 2, Paul writes, "Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?" And that, I think, gets to the root of my struggle. I know that God is forgiving and patient and has given me grace, so I sometimes make the mistake of not taking these issues very seriously when they come up, when in fact they are serious.
See, what happens is I get to a place where I start thinking I'm doing pretty well and I can handle things from here. But then when I start trying to manage things on my own, I slowly drift away from God. God is still there, willing to shine his light into every corner of my heart, but as I drift away, the darkness becomes more and more pronounced, and the light fades into the distance. It is like seeing a very bright light from far away, and it looks like a tiny speck. But then when I realize just how far I've drifted and begin moving closer again, the light becomes bigger and brighter, and as it shines on all these things I've been hiding, I realize they have to go. Bad habits, thought patterns, attitudes, desires-- they are glaringly obvious. It's hard to let go of the things that have become deeply ingrained, but in order to stay in the light, I must. It's like turning on a bright light in a pitch black room; it hurts as I adjust.
And when I get to that point, I realize that I cannot continue to "presume on the riches of his kindness" and ignore these issues in my heart. His law is written there and he is illuminating it for me. His grace means that the penalty has been paid; it does not mean he is permissively looking the other way. It is meant to bring me to repentance. And so as God's love and kindness bring me to repentance, and I move closer to the light, his light fills me and the darkness fades.