Every Day Alike

The Sabbath Day is central to our understanding of time; it’s where we get the concept of a 7-day week. The very first thing God tells us He did as He ceased creating is bless the seventh day (Ge 2:2-3), and we’ve been keeping time by it ever since. He didn’t do this just for Jews, but as a blessing for us all. (Mk 2:27)

It’s a blessing to rest from our work every Sabbath, to slow down, take time to notice, to be still. It’s a time to commune with others, to focus, re-calibrate and rejuvenate. It’s a rhythm God has given us, and it’s good for us to get into it.

Yet it isn’t only about rest; the essence of the sabbath command is to remember it (Ex 20:7): to not forget God rested from His creative work on a Saturday, and to keep each weekly anniversary of Creation in mind as part of the fabric of our existence. It’s a way to stay in sync with God, to glorify Him as God (Ro 1:21), to abide in Him, to constantly remember our Almighty Creator: He has made each of us individually with His hands (Ps 119:73), and every single day uniquely since (Ps 118:24); this is all the work of His hands. (Ps 95:5, Ps 102:25)

However, God doesn’t say the Sabbath is more important or more valuable than workdays, just that we’re to set it aside, to purpose to live differently within it. It isn’t necessarily wrong for us to esteem Sabbath above workdays; it’s natural to focus more on God when we aren’t distracted as much by worldly cares, and enjoying such times is incredibly important. But it’s also reasonable to esteem workdays to be of equal importance, or even more important than Sabbath, if we worship God every day and value work more than rest.

We may all have an opinion, even a strong one (Ro 14:5), yet this is between us and God. (6a) Since God is silent on the matter, and hasn’t made Saturdays noticeably different than other days, we shouldn’t be dogmatic or concerned for those who hold a different view.

There are those who leverage this concept, as Paul expresses it in Romans 14, to dismiss Sabbath altogether, claiming we can now pick any day we like for sabbath, or treat every day alike and ignore sabbath. These folk generally also claim we can now dismiss God’s dietary laws and eat anything we like (Ro 14:2), not making any distinction in our diet. (14)

Yet those who teach this way are missing the whole point of the context: which is receiving those who are weak in the faith. (Ro 14:1) Paul isn’t dismissing any part of the divine standard and encouraging us all to wing it, he’s teaching us to be accommodating with those who are of differing opinions on matters where God is silent, especially those who are intimidated by culture, tradition and superficial appearances, who aren’t fully grounded in the precepts of God. (13)

And this is the general pattern of love; where God has spoken clearly we’re to be committed to persuading others as well as we can (Ti 1:9), earnestly defending the faith (Ju 3), compassionate and concerned (2Ti 2:24-26), seeking to restore those who have fallen (Ga 6:1), and in matters of preference we’re to be gracious, peaceful and tolerant. (Ro 14:19)

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Founded Upon a Rock

The ending of the Sermon on the Mount is majestic, imposing, ominously authoritative and frighteningly demanding. After laying out what looks like an impossible standard of conduct, Christ says all who don’t obey Him and do what He says will be eternally destroyed (Mt 7:26-27), including many who call Him Lord. (22) If the Gospel is simply a free gift of salvation to all who are willing to receive it, how do we square this up?

One way is to ignore the warning and hope for the best, that God’s love and grace will cover our sin and we’ll be fine in the end even if we don’t obey Him. This isn’t wisdom, to say the least; it’s building on the sand: equivalent to rejecting Christ Himself. (Jn 12:48) We can say we’re receiving Christ while we’re ignoring what He says, but it’s pointless doubletalk. (Ja 2:20) Christ is saying something exceedingly profound, and He means exactly what He says; we ignore Him at our eternal peril. (De 18:19)

Another way to deal with this is to claim we’re saved by obeying Christ, reject the idea of salvation is a free gift and try to earn it. Another dead end, hopeless approach. (Ga 3:10)

The correct way to resolve this must be that those who are justified freely by His grace also obey Him (1Pe 1:2), not to earn salvation but as a necessary consequence of believing in Christ. Though works aren’t the cause of salvation, they must be the evidence that salvation has taken place. In other words, faith alone is a myth (Ja 2:17); faith and works always go together, we can’t separate them.

This implies those who are saved cannot live in willful disobedience as a manner of life. If our lives don’t reflect faith in the Son of God, we shouldn’t deceive ourselves; we should seek God until we find Him, until He reveals Christ in us and begins to sanctify and transform us. (Ep 2:10)

It also implies that Christ is not demanding absolute, sinless perfection from the start of our spiritual journey; there’s a sanctification process where we grow in faith and love over time. (Php 1:9) While we’re growing, we find within the longing to be more holy and obedient (He 12:14); continuous, stubborn defiance does not characterize the child of God. (15)

If we’re justified in Christ, we’ll be able to see how Christ is working within us obedience to all of His words, ensuring our lives are bearing out the fruit He says will come. Where we aren’t obeying too well yet in a particular area, we ask Him to show us why and heal us so we become more like Him. (Ja 5:16)

This is how we dig deep, laying up for ourselves a good foundation against the time to come, and lay hold on eternal life (1Ti 6:18-20), grounding our eternal home in the Rock Himself: Christ Jesus.

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The Lord’s Day

When the Apostle John received the Revelation of Jesus Christ (Re 1:1), he tells us he was, “in the spirit on the Lord’s Day.” (10) This term, “the Lord’s day”, occurs only here in scripture, and it’s nearly universally understood by Christians to be a reference to Sunday, the first day of the week, though there’s no indication of this in the immediate context.

Why would Christians insist John is referring to Sunday? Typical reasoning is since the saints in Troas assembled for a meal and teaching on a Sunday (Ac 20:7), the early Christians must already have been observing Sunday as their day of rest and worship since Christ rose from the dead on Sunday. (Mk 16:9)

However, it is reasonable to think this particular meeting in Troas occurred in the evening, just after sunset on Sabbath, since Paul’s speech continued until midnight (speaking 5-6 hours straight is much more likely than 12-15 hours). The evening is when the new day begins, and it would be convenient for believers to meet just after sabbath on the first day of the week at or near a synagogue where both Jews and believing Gentiles would already be gathering to hear scripture read and expounded. (Ac 15:30)

Early believers only had the Tanach (Old Testament, there was no formal New Testament yet), and copies were very expensive; the synagogue likely had the only scripture in any given city. If one wanted regular access to the Word of God, synagogue was it. This is a very reasonable motivation for meeting on Sunday evening; we need not assume early Gentile believers were arbitrarily fabricating a new holy day to supplant the sabbath, breaking with their Jewish brothers and sisters to despise a basic command of God observed by saints for millennia.

Sunday was a workday for Jews, so it would have been problematic for any congregation with a sizeable Jewish element to assemble during the day on Sunday. There is no indication in scripture God told them to do so, there is no historical record of this practice during the apostolic era, and there is no clear motivation from their circumstances until quite late in the first century, so we may be confident they didn’t do this at first. The early disciples met daily, randomly, to eat and fellowship as much as they could, not just on Sundays (Ac 2:46), likely mostly informally in the evenings after work.

Paul’s instruction to Macedonian believers to allocate their alms for poor Jewish saints (Ro 15:26) on the first day of the week (1Co 16:2) is also offered as evidence that early believers were meeting on Sunday and setting it apart as holy. However, the text does not indicate this was a collection taken up in the assembly but dedicated privately at home.  So, this text also does not indicate believers were setting aside Sunday as holy.

The above comprises the sum total of evidence from scripture suggesting Sunday is the Lord’s Day, and it’s inconclusive at best. Christianity’s insistence on Sunday must be driven by something other than scripture, by tradition starting well after the apostolic period as believers were desperately trying to distance themselves from Judaism and the burdensome Jewish Tax imposed by Rome. The eventual result was a new religion which was foreign to the apostles, corrupted from the true (Is 8:20), an imitation and counterfeit using all the same words and phrases, but fundamentally different, with new traditions and practices, often deeply antisemitic.

There’s only one reasonable choice for the Lord’s Day, it’s the day God Himself blessed and sanctified, the day He rested from His creative work: the seventh day. (Ge 2:4) This is the sabbath of the Lord thy God (Ex 20:10), that is … the Lord’s day.

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If We Sin Willfully

God warns the saints to not sin willfully: He threatens severe chastening if we do. (He 10:26-27) What types of sins does this include? How do we avoid committing them?

The Greek is Ἑκουσίως (Hekousiōs), appearing only here and (1 Peter 5:2); it means deliberately, willingly, as opposed to thoughtlessly, instinctively, or from ignorance, weakness or under duress. It modifies the Greek ἁμαρτανόντων (hamartanontōn), to go on sinning. The thought is that the sinful action is habitual, premeditated, intentional, brazen, defiant … knowing the law of God and despising it. (Ro 1:32)

Biblical examples would include the sanctimonious lying of Ananias and Saphira, claiming to donate all the proceeds from the sale of their land while they were keeping back some for themselves (Ac 5:1-2), who were immediately and supernaturally slain. (Ac 5:5,10) The Corinthian who took his father’s wife (1Co 5:1) was delivered over to Satan by the church for the destruction of his earthly body so his spirit would be saved (1Co 5:5), and a man gathering sticks on sabbath (Nu 15:32) was promptly stoned to death. (Nu 15:35-36)

The context of God’s warning refers back to the precedent He sets in Torah: anyone in Israel caught despising Torah would be executed without mercy. (He 10:28) Mercy was available for those who sinned ignorantly (Nu 15:27-29), but there was no pity for those despised Torah and sinned presumptuously. (30-31)

If we find this harsh, inconsistent with the New Testament god of love and mercy, we’re trusting in another Jesus, one not found in scripture: the punishment for believers who sin willfully is not less severe but more. (He 10:29) Torah’s punishment was carried out by civil authority, but the punishment of believers is designed and carried out by God Himself and may very well be much worse than death. (30) Don’t go there; it won’t be worth it, not even close. (31)

David’s adultery with Bathsheba would certainly also fall into this willful category (2Sa 12:9); he didn’t die for it, but he may often have wished he had, for all the suffering and tragedy which followed because of it. (10-12)

It isn’t cruelty that drives God’s severity; God is good; there’s no malice in Him. God’s love moves Him to severity as appropriate. (Ro 11:22) The consequences of sin are simply too devastating to be left unchecked (Mt 5:29-30); God loves the saints way too much to let us go off and destroy ourselves and others. He will do whatever is needful to bring us back and keep us close because He loves us. (He 12:5-6)

When we’re tempted to sin presumptuously, we can ask God to keep us back from it and restrain us. (Ps 19:13) We can also assure ourselves that whatever it is that’s telling us it’s a good idea to sin willfully is lying; we can ask God to give us repentance to acknowledge the truth (2Ti 2:25-26), choose the fear of God and depart from evil. (Pr 3:7)

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The Everlasting Gospel

Clearly and accurately identifying Christ, the Holy Spirit and His eternal Gospel (Re 14:6-7) is central to the Christian faith, yet given the many attractive counterfeits (2Co 11:4), it’s evidently no easy task.

Consider the claim that repentance, turning from our sin, is optional, that one may receive the gift of free grace in Christ with no strings attached. The claim is that God offers forgiveness to those who remain hardened against Himself, who intend to continue in rebellion against Him, who will not submit to Him as Lord. It’s claiming we can receive the gifts of Christ without receiving Christ Himself (Jn 1:12), that we may have eternal life without giving up our own life (Jn 12:25), without offering up ourselves to the Son in Whom this eternal life resides. (1Jn 5:11-12) Is this a false gospel, or the true?

It’s true we’re not saved by our works; there’s nothing we can do to earn salvation, or to add to what Christ has done to save us: justification has nothing to do with our obedience to God. But it’s also true that all who don’t love Jesus Christ will be cursed at His coming. (1Co 16:22) Those who pursue sin as a manner of life don’t yet know God (1Jn 2:4) and are heading for eternal damnation. (Ro 2:8-9)

So, offering unrepentant sinners a get-out-of-jail-free card may seem like free grace, but it’s a misunderstanding and misapplication of the Gospel: that would give us a license to sin and make Christ a minister / enabler of sin, and this isn’t Love. (Ga 2:17) Yet we don’t need to clean up our act before we come to Christ either: Christ didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Lk 5:31-32)

The biblical Gospel isn’t merely an offer of forgiveness, it’s an offer of holiness, without which we’ll never see God. (He 12:14) God’s inviting us not only to justification, but also to sanctification: He’s offering to transform us from rebels into saints. (Ro 8:29-30) The redeemed are elect unto obedience (1Pe 1:2), predestined to good works. (Ep 2:10)

The New Covenant in Christ writes God’s Law into the very fabric of our minds and hearts (He 8:10), equipping us to obey and honor Him: receiving Christ involves pursing this transformational relationship, in which He starts cleaning us up and making us more like Himself. (Ti 2:11-14) He enables us to start submitting to and obeying God from the heart so we can walk in fellowship with Him, in more and more alignment with Him. (He 12:28) If we aren’t interested in that good news, we aren’t interested in the Gospel at all. (Ps 119:155)

If we have faith to believe God is Who He says He is, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him by enabling us to find Him, then the Gospel invites us to come (Re 22:17); it’s the only way we can come to God. (He 11:6) Saving faith works in us not only to rest in God (He 4:10-11) but also to pursue God. (Php 2:12-13)

We’re to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness (Mt 6:33), believing Christ is both our righteousness and our sanctification (1Co 1:30), obeying Him with what strength He’s already giving us as we rest in Him, trusting He will deliver us yet more and more from our sin (Ga 1:4), confident in His promise to ultimately present us faultless before Himself with exceeding joy. (Ju 24)

This is the Good News, the everlasting Gospel; it has never changed, and it never will.

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The Light of the Body

Our ability to visualize, to imagine, is grounded in a library of images stored in our brains, sourced originally from our eyes. From these images, and others we derive from them, we create dreams, what-if scenarios in which avatars of ourselves act out our fantasies in panorama. We’re able live in an alternate world, exploring ideas and theories to see how they play out without any real consequence. It is a fascinating capability with unlimited potential.

We might call this the mind’s eye; equipping us to navigate a complex metaphysical world much like our physical eyes enable us to navigate the material world. It is a gift from God helping us to order our steps and avoid catastrophe, both physical and metaphysical.

We should find it intriguing then when Christ describes the eye as the light of the body (Mt 6:22a), for the inside of the physical body is not typically illuminated with light; the eye translates light into electrical impulses which form images in our brains stored as memories; the light itself doesn’t go past the back of the eye.

Yet Christ speaks of our eye as a lamp illuminating every part of our whole body (22b), as if our bodies were complex labyrinths, the eye helping us explore and see what’s inside. He must then be speaking of the mind’s eye and the metaphysical body, the heart (Mk 7:21-23), that collection of memories, values, concepts, knowledge, emotions and attitudes stored in the circuitry of our brains and bodies, and also fully imprinted within our spirits and souls (Lk 16:25), uniquely defining who and what we are. (Mt 7:16-20)

As our physical eyes work by focusing, and effectively blind us when they don’t, so it is with our mind’s eye: in order to function as God designed, we must have a singular focus or objective in our imaginative process (23a), else we’re double-minded, unstable in all of our ways. (Ja 1:8) The rules we use to evaluate memories and the outcomes of our mental scenarios are the rules we’re using to navigate life. If the rules are inconsistent, our thoughts and actions will be erratic and incoherent.

As in the physical, metaphysical focus distinguishes between light and dark, and identifies, discerns and evaluates moral choices to understand how they have or will impact ourselves and others. This requires us to have a framework of moral experience and a moral standard by which to evaluate what we remember and perceive.

If we get our moral standard wrong, mixing up light and darkness, calling evil good and good evil (Is 5:20), this fills us with darkness which we perceive as light. This then is a kind of darkness, a body of lies which deceive, blind and ensnare us (Mt 23:b), aligning us with the prince of darkness (Ep 2:2), the father of lies (Jn 8:44), who then takes us captive. (2Ti 2:26)

Even when we want to obey the truth, the challenge is we don’t always know what our own rules are (Ro 7:21-23), the principles and beliefs operating within us, what’s driving our own behavior. (14-15) We all start out as darkness (Ep 5:8), making up our own moral standard as we go (Ge 3:22); we need to be continually retraining our minds, both the conscious and subconscious (Ro 12:2), to expose this darkness within ourselves (Ep 4:17-18), searching our inward parts with God (Pr 20:27), asking Him to expose (Ps 19:12), cleanse (Ps 119:9) and heal every facet of our mind and heart which is not yet aligned with His Way. (Ps 139:23-24)

Christ warns us to be very careful about what we call light, that it’s not darkness. (Lk 11:35) As we decide for ourselves what’s right and wrong, as our decisions differ from God’s as revealed in Torah (Ro 7:7), we’re choosing darkness. The more we do this the more our mind’s eye will play out our definitions and train us in darkness, filling us with lies about God, ourselves and others, producing bondage (Pr 5:22) and framing us as enemies of God. (Ro 8:7-8)

The more we align our moral compass with God’s (Ja 1:25), the more we’re walking in the light (Ep 5:8), into the freedom to which He’s called us. (Jn 8:31-32) Christ has given Himself for us that He might redeem us from our darkness and purify us unto Himself. (Tit 2:14) He is more than willing to do so. (Ga 1:4)

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Cleave Unto His Wife

The first, and perhaps most important human relationship described in scripture is marriage; it’s introduced immediately after Man and Woman are created and it’s oriented in the husband’s responsibility to “cleave unto his wife”. (Ge 2:24) What does this mean?

The prerequisite for cleaving is that the man “leave his father and his mother”: separate himself from his birth family.

This leaving is evidently inherently both physical and spiritual; physical in the sense that each man is to have his own house, a dwelling where he cares for and protects himself and his family. (De 22:2) To do so effectively he must first learn to care for and provide for himself:  have an occupation, a means of generating value, and become productive and proficient in his work. (Pr 24:27)

This leaving is also spiritual in the sense that the man is to be recognized by other men, particularly by his own father, as a man, received and understood by others to be an independently functioning, responsible member of society. In many cultures this is marked by a special ceremony where a boy, having demonstrated the necessary skills to provide for himself, participates in a ritual, after which his father acknowledges his manhood and receives him as an equal among other men.

Once a man leaves his parents and takes a wife, one given him by God as a suitable helper (Ge 2:18) in pursuing a unique destiny together (Ge 2:28), he becomes one flesh with her; husband and wife experience a metaphysical union and become part of a single human organism, permanently interconnected, members one of another. (1Co 6:16) It is in this context that the husband is to — cleave unto his wife.

The immediate context then informs us that this cleaving relates to an orientation in the man which initiates, encourages, facilitates and promotes an ongoing pattern of interaction with his wife which enables them to seamlessly live and work together to overcome the challenges they will inevitably face in pursuing their mutual destiny. It is a joining of his mind, soul and heart with his wife such that the two of them are thinking and acting together more and more as one; in the same way the two have become one flesh, the goal is to be of one heart, one mind, and one soul. (Ac 4:32)

This marital union is intended to produce a single metaphysical being capable of achieving what neither of the two could ever accomplish on their own, and the man is to lead and manage their interactions so as to produce this type of unity in his marriage.

God has called Man to this most complex and difficult task of cleaving to Woman, a unique and separate individual bearing the image of God, and necessarily very much unlike himself. Their differences, their unique orientations, inclinations and capabilities, are an intrinsic part of this design, enabling and strengthening the union they are to produce together. This mysterious process is, in itself, the work of God, the shadow of an eternal, heavenly marriage between God and Man. (Ep 5:31-32)

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Bury Him

Cremation is certainly a convenient alternative to burial today; it’s generally cheaper and provides more flexibility in scheduling the funeral. Yet it may be inappropriate, especially for followers of Christ.

While there’s no direct command forbidding cremation, it is interesting to note that even the dead bodies of the cursed are to be respected by burial (De 21:23), that burning is not given in Torah as a way to either punish or dispose of a human body, and that there’s no indication anywhere in scripture that cremation might be an acceptable alternative to burial.

In fact, Abraham went to great effort and expense to obtain property just so he could have a place to bury Sarah properly (Ge 23:4); Isaac and Rebecca were interred there with similar concern; Jacob went out of his way to bury Leah there, and his last act was to insist that his children go to great expense and trouble to bury his own body there. (Ge 49:29-31) Joseph even insisted that his body be preserved and his bones brought out of Egypt along with Israel when they were delivered from slavery several centuries later. (Ge 50:25) If cremation were arbitrarily equivalent to burial, it’s difficult to explain the preoccupation of the godly with where and how their bodies should be kept in death.

Cave of the Patriarchs, Hebron, Israel

The burial of Moses is perhaps the most significant and unusual example in this regard; as far as we know, it’s the only body God Himself buried, and (not coincidently) also the only body the devil sought to exploit. (Jud 9) Since God Himself chose to bury Moses’ body in a secret location (De 34:5-6), evidently even stationing a high-ranking angel at the tomb to resist Satan’s attempt to take it, when cremation would have solved the problem more conveniently, we have compelling evidence that burial is the only godly choice, and that cremation is problematic.

It’s clear that cremation doesn’t prevent God from resurrecting anyone (He 11:19), so this cannot be the concern. It’s also clear in scripture that the bodies of animals were routinely burned (He 13:11); this method of disposal was commonly used for sanitation but never recommended for humans.

Perhaps it’s related to the fact that we’re all made in the image of God (Ge 1:27), and that this bodily image is to be respected. It’s clear from scripture that our physical body is of interest to God; He tells us to treat it with dignity (De 14:1) and respect (Le 19:28), chooses to dwell within it (1Co 6:19) and intends to redeem it. (Ro 8:23)

In fact, God has identified so intimately with our physicality that He treats our earthly bodies as members of Christ Himself (1Co 6:15), and the physical body of Christ might just be the holiest object in existence anywhere, holier than the holiest of all within the temple itself. So, if our bodies are part of Him, as they evidently are (Ep 5:30), it’s very important how we treat them while we live, as well as when we die.

If our thought is that our bodes don’t really matter, we’re missing a significant part of God’s precious design in us (Php 3:21), part of what He values in and about us. Yet, if in the end we’re blown to bits in an accident, burned at the stake or beheaded as martyrs, dismembered and cast into smoldering trash heaps (He 11:37), God certainly won’t be set back by this. (Ps 116:15) As in so many other things, this is about our hearts and motives (1Co 4:5), not God’s ability to redeem. (Mk 10:27)

We’re stewards of our bodies; how we handle them in both life and death is a matter of stewardship, respect and dignity, treating something precious made in the image of God, the very temple of God, with the honor it deserves. (1Pe 2:17)

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The Avenger

God tells us very plainly not to avenge ourselves (Ro 12:19), yet He also makes provision in His Law for His people to avenge the death of a loved one, and He evidently wants us to do this. (De 19:12) Thus, while it’s true that vengeance belongs to God alone and not to us, there are evidently times when He chooses us to be the instrument of His vengeance and to deliver it on His behalf.

Predator C Avenger

As we exact revenge on our own, we seldom do so with the right heart; our wrath doesn’t work the righteousness of God (Ja 1:20); righteous anger is indeed a rare thing. Yet when God sets the boundaries on when and how we’re allowed to take revenge, He is keeping us within His standards and ordering our steps in His ways.

After all, as warped as our desire to get even generally is, it is based on a desire for justice, and justice is generally a good thing; it’s a deterrent to evil and places the ultimate cost of malevolence on the perpetrator rather than the victim. When a legal system aligns with God and allows us to take proper revenge, this is holiness.

What God forbids is taking matters into our own hands; He sets the stage for revenge in the context of impartial community which agrees on the legitimacy,  method, timing, and degree of our response. Apart from such a legal system, we must leave restitution entirely in God’s hands.

USS Avenger Minesweeper

Even so, though we’re not allowed to avenge ourselves per current legal standards, we may certainly desire justice (Re 6:10), even rejoice when it’s carried out, and this might indeed be righteous. (Re 19:1-2) When justice is sought so God Himself might be vindicated, for He is the one primarily and mostly wronged in every offense (Ps 51:4), our interest in justice may then be upright. (Ps 119:84)

Yet how do we integrate love for mercy into our love for justice? How are we to do justly as well as love mercy? (Mi 6:8) We do it by loving our neighbor, desiring what’s best for him, which is to be reconciled to God and to walk in His ways.

When repentance is already present (Ex 20:6), or if we have evidence that mercy will further reveal the goodness of God and encourage repentance (Ro 2:4), then mercy is very likely appropriate. (Mt 18:33) Otherwise, justice is likely best, for offender, victim, and all within society. (De 19:20)

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Lord of the Sabbath

When Christ says the sabbath was made for Man, and not Man for the sabbath (Mk 2:27), we might conclude the same about the rest of Torah, that it was made for us: we weren’t made for it. We might also conclude there might be times when it’s OK to break certain parts of God’s law, as when we’re in danger or have an emergency.

The Passion of the Christ

The immediate context is about harvesting on sabbath when we’re famished: the disciples were plucking grain (23) and the Pharisees accused them of breaking Sabbath. (24)

Christ counters with David eating bread he wasn’t allowed to eat; David and his men were famished and there weren’t any good options. (25-26) Christ seems to be saying there are times when God mercifully overlooks certain kinds of Torah violations: it isn’t that they aren’t violations; God just doesn’t call them out or hold us accountable for them in the same way.

What shall we say of god-fearing people who lied during the Holocaust to save innocent lives? Do we really see ourselves standing up on Judgment day condemning them? (Mt 12:41) We might be quite alone if we do; while God doesn’t officially approve of this kind of behavior, neither does He explicitly call it out as evil (Ex 1:19); He does seem to overlook it. (20-21)

The fact that plucking grain on sabbath actually doesn’t violate Torah at all, just Jewish tradition, may then not be the point; perhaps the point is that God is free to mercifully overlook certain kinds of sin without being unjust. (Ge 19:21) Perhaps it’s also about us being overly scrupulous in evaluating others’ behavior, especially in difficult, unusual or trying circumstances.

In reminding us He’s Lord of the Sabbath (Mk 2:28), Christ wasn’t telling us it’s OK to violate the sabbath now, or any part of Torah (Mt 5:19), but that He knows best when and how to show mercy when we break it.

It’s one thing to appreciate the mercy of God (Ps 136:1), yet it’s another matter altogether to presume He will be merciful when we deliberately and willfully choose to break Torah for our own pleasure and convenience. (He 10:28-31) When obeying God will bring suffering and difficulty, how committed should we be to honoring and respecting God’s Law? Should we break sabbath to keep a job? Or lie to save a loved one? Would we rather starve than eat unclean food?

Every one of us will give account of himself to God (Ro 14:11-12), and we’re all at different stages of maturity; some have faith to suffer for minor Torah violations, while others may not yet be so well grounded, becoming bitter and resentful in premature sacrifice. We should not create burdens for ourselves and others (Ac 15:10) which we’re unable to gladly bear. (He 10:34) Sorting this out is no small matter.

Whether God will slam us to the mat if we happen to break His Law under duress may not be the right question. Would Jesus break God’s Law to convenience Himself? or to accommodate someone He loves? Even to spare His own life? He never did sin like this (1Pe 2:22) and we’re to follow His steps. (21)

A better question might be, What kind of Resurrection do we want? (He 12:35b) What kind of testimony? (Re 12:11)

It’s a matter of faith to trust God to work out the details when we’re in a bind, to give us the strength to walk in joy, honoring Him as we suffer. Staying alive isn’t the ultimate priority (Php 1:21-22); neither is comfort or pleasure – ours or anyone else’s. We’ve not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. (He 12:4) The goal of God’s love is holiness: it makes no room for sin.

Shall we be so delighted in God’s ways that as the pressures of life mount up and threaten us (Ps 119:61), closing in about us until our very life hangs in the balance (109), we’ll not neglect or forsake His precepts? (87) Clinging to them as unto Him? (31) If we’ve yielded our body a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God (Ro 12:1), we’ve already decided.

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