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Fulfillment of the Law
What is the Law?
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” Matt 5:17 (KJV).
Quite often in my Christian walk, I have been asked the question, “How do you reconcile the vengeful God of the Old Testament with the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament, this duality does not make sense and means the bible cannot be true.” I have always referred to Matthew 5:17 as an explanation, but until recently did not fully understand what it actually means. I look at the world today, and the teachings of churches like Westboro Baptist who seem to believe it is their holy mission to be God’s vengeful hand on earth. They believe they are doing His work because He is the same God today as He was in the Old Testament. I mean, God doesn’t change, so this must be true then right?
What exactly did Jesus mean when he said he came to fulfill the law not destroy it? When you read the New Testament it would seem like this is exactly what he came to do. He destroyed the Pharisees ideas and beliefs about God and the law, right? He ate with sinners, surrounded himself with prostitutes and thieves all at the same time condemning the very people who were viewed as the most holy at this time. The Pharisees kept the law, to extremes, if Jesus was coming to fulfill it would He not surround Himself with likeminded people?
We know He did not. We know He in fact chided and chastised them for trying to keep the law. To understand why, we need to look at what the law was and was not. The law was not a set of rules designed only to punish and make life difficult for God’s chosen. It was intended to be a guide book on how to live a life in harmony with each other. It was intended to teach us how to respect and love one another. If you read all of them, I have and admit it is tedious but worth it, you begin to see this common theme. Things like, if you borrow someone’s goat and it dies, you will replace the goat and more. I mean, this seems only right since it was entrusted to your care right? Even the well-known top ten, adultery, murder, lies and so on. Six out of the first ten commandments deal with society while the rest deal with your relationship with God. One could argue keeping the Sabbath was more for your own mental health, but that is for another time.
One of the biggest things we need to understand, is why did we need a set of laws like this? Most of this is common sense, we know what good and evil look like and good people know how to choose good right? This is where God’s sacrifice, Jesus’ death comes into play. As established in the beginning, Adam and Eve sinned, essentially dirtying our vessels to the point where God could not abide. As a result, we were left to our own devices. One only has to look at what we know about society prior to this sacrifice. It was wild, human sacrifices, murder and adultery being the norm, and people simply accepted it as life. There was no one who questioned this, including the victims themselves. One would argue this shows how we evolved, but I think it is a bit deeper than this. The Holy Spirit is what we consider our conscience. From the very beginning God said he would write the law on our hearts. This happened the day He died and redeemed us to God, allowing Him to send the Holy Spirit (conscience) into everyone. So we walk around today, born with this conscience that gives us this idea of doing the right thing, that our ancestors did not have. Imagine walking through life with no conscience, nothing telling you right from wrong? How would you know? This is exactly how our ancestors lived, and why God delivered the law, to help His people understand right from wrong.
Why the quick and dirty brief overview of the law? Well let’s follow it to the conclusion. Jesus said He came to fulfill the law; how did He do this? By doing the exact same things the Pharisees and other religious leaders killed Him for. His mission was to teach us, to show us the law was intended to help us learn how to love God and one another. At the point in time when Jesus came, the Law had become something of a religious status symbol. The more you kept the law, the more holy you were and the better you were than everyone else. This meant people would go to extremes to ensure they did not break any laws, just so they could maintain their status. One only has to look at one of the most popular parables, the Good Samaritan to see this in action. The two holy men, passed by someone in dire need because maintaining their status, maintaining their holiness was more important than helping someone. What they did not realize is by not helping this man, they were actually being worse than a Samaritan, who the Jews at the time hated, who regardless of beliefs stopped and went above and beyond to help this man.
So, one of Jesus’ main missions as we established, was to teach us the heart of the law, the intent behind it. He died so that it may be written on our hearts. So why are we not living in a Utopia now? Just like two thousand years ago, we have taken to using God’s word to elevate ourselves over people and to make ourselves feel important. There are churches now teaching the same ideology as the Pharisees did all those years ago. Christians are flocking to these teachings because it tickles their fancy. They are joining movements and churches like Westboro Baptist because what they teach makes them feel important. It is self-centered ideology. We separate ourselves as holy, and guess what it is not always as extreme as picketing a funeral.
People who call themselves Christians today set themselves apart in many diverse and little ways. We huddle in groups and only associate with other Christians. We are very vocal about things like homosexuality and abortion but seem ok with things like lying. We have established a religion where instead of viewing all sin the same, we pick and choose which ones are simply horrible and get vocal about them. The way we tell people God loves them, is by first telling them what a horrible person they are. This is not fulfilling the law, instead we are using the law as a rod.
Jesus came, fulfilled the law and then left to return at a later time unknown to us. We are supposed to be using this time to show we can choose to do the right thing, and live the heart of the law without it being forced. Meaning, God is not sitting up in Heaven, waiting for someone to mess up and then spanking them. We have reached adulthood, and much like the eighteen-year-old who goes out into the world, God is letting us go and show Him we can apply the lessons He has taught us. If God is not sitting up in heaven doling out punishment and judgement, why do we? Is the heart of the law a spanking board, or is it to love and understand each other? Is it to mourn with those who mourn, or to picket and punish them even further? We live in a time, where we all know what is right and what is wrong, and while we may view what someone does as breaking the law we are not God’s police. It is not our job to enforce the law, but to live the intent and show everyone love and compassion no matter where they are at. To love each other with the same intensity as we love God Himself.
What do you think? Leave your comments and discuss below.