I have a friend who has always been a strong, aggressive, conservative Christian, but now he is becoming Judeo-Christian. He has been influenced by the interpretation of his Jewish siblings’ views of the New Testament. Because Jesus said he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill the law, my friend argued that the 613 laws are still a mandate of Christian life (with a few exceptions as proclaimed by Simon Peter). I was appalled by this, but listened respectfully and lovingly, and gave my argument where I saw necessary. His argument was logical on many points, essentially first proving that the way of the law was pleasing to God (which I believe to an extent it was), and then attesting to its current obligation for a healthy relationship to God.
The broader issue, I suppose, is concerning the role of actions and beliefs in regard to one’s relationship to God. Christians stereotypically labels faith as the only requisite for salvation, and attests that all other religions focus only on works. I think that this is essentially true, but is almost always misinterpreted. Stating it in this way (that faith is the only thing needed to go to heaven), allows people to be lackadaisical and uncritical about what they do. The words have become cliche and incomplete in their understanding. The idea that people could be saved regardless of action, becomes an enabler of evil. Yes, it matters most to God where the heart is, but people forget, avoid, and underscore that good works are the natural result of a righteous heart.
Our lives should be of continual accountability to God. Therefore, all laws: religious, legal, familial, and otherwise are not good or bad until one evaluates it with a righteous heart (keeping the will of God in mind). I find all of this in line with the teachings of Christ, though not necessarily of the Old Testament, of which I am growing more critical.
One of the passages he explained was Acts 10: 9-43, in Peter’s vision of the unclean animals, God’s voice says “Do not call anything unclean which I have made clean”. He explained (but this is the Jewish perspective) that Christians take the verse out of context. Right after his dream, Peter applies his vision to accept guests who were gentiles. He argued that the vision is merely an analogy, prompting the acceptance of gentiles, not advocating the abandonment of dietary laws or any of “the law”.
If the Gentiles should suddenly be considered clean, but they do not observe the laws, how is it that you can maintain that the Jewish law is essential to salvation? This is totally against the teachings of Jesus. As my friend was interpreting these passages, all I could think about were Jesus’ teachings. Let the righteous one among you throw the first stone. It is better for a man to cast an anchor around his neck, than to harm a little child. He gave respect and love to drunks, murderers, amputees, blind, The pharisees were followers of the law, but Jesus wrote their sins in the dirt. Paul and Jesus talked often of the law, and it is very blatant that faith is the way to salvation, not works. The law is just a part of culture, like every other religion. What is superlative is the notion that all acts are subject to ethical analysis. Rather than a scale for which our bad has to outweigh our good, truth and righteousness should be saught in all actions.
Another he explained was Galatians 3, which I forget how he explained it. But essentially there was a lot of semantic words which make the passage confusing especially if one is thinking with formal equivalence instead of dynamic. I re-read Galatians, and it seems to me an unfortunate place to cut a chapter, because 2 and 3 are the continuation of a single argument. Paul is rebuking Barnabas and the church of Galatia because they cannot get it through their thick skulls that it is NOT the law which saves but the Spirit. The Spirit influences works, but it is not works which are important.
Did you clothe the naked? Did you feed the hungry? Did you speak in the prisons? Do you care about others, or did you do these things because of a spouse or to find pleasure for oneself? Did you break the rules of society where God was moving you with compassion? Did you treat with responsibility what you were given?
America especially has become morally numb by politics and media, liberalism and conservatism, governments and corporations. The whole atmosphere of our society disguises greed, pride, and ambition as the dominant values. All of us can see that the world is broken and sinful. The atheists blame the theists, and the theists blame the government, and the government blames the scientists. People just swallow what they are told without thinking for themselves. Most people will never leave the country, or at least not the continent. Or if they do become critical of one thing, they find something else and immediately swallow that doctrine. Humanity is utterly helpless because the task of spiritual authority is too scary for a single person to handle. But that’s what Jesus called us to do.
This photo caught my eye, and I felt I had to share it.