For years I picked up on the idea that Jesus came to give us more law—and sometimes an even stricter law. Here are some of the faulty interpretations I had:
The Law: you can use instruments to worship God.
Jesus: if you use instruments or approve of their use in worship, then you will go to Hell forever.
The Law: you can divorce your spouse if you aren’t taken care of with no penalty.
Jesus: even if your husband beats you and your children, you should have known what kind of man he was before you married; that’s on you. The only valid reason for divorce is for sexual immorality, and if you divorce and remarry for any other reason, you will burn in Hell forever.
The Law: women can be prophets, leaders of Israel, and judges.
Jesus: biblical womanhood is about not passing trays standing up, not exercising teaching gifts unless there are no males present, and never leading public prayers. If you do those things or approve of them, you’ll go to Hell forever.
How can we say that the fruit of the Spirit is joy and peace while denying the use of tools that bring joy and peace? How can we force a woman and her children to stay with a man who abuses them emotionally and physically (and then deny her the right to remarry)? How can we affirm the priesthood of all believers and deny half of the church the right to practice their office in a public way?
And then to think that anyone who disagrees with how we see these things is destined for outer darkness?
Apparently the chief command isn’t to love God and love neighbor; apparently it is to “rightly divide the word of truth” according to 200 years of Restoration Movement orthodoxy. Because you can love God and love neighbor everyday through self-sacrifice in the name of Jesus, but if you use a guitar in worship because you failed to “rightly divide,” then tough luck!
We say that the church is not the building, but the marks of a true Christian are first and foremost defined by what they do within an hour of worship inside that building and how they answer a few “key issues.” If our definition of a true Christian lined up with Jesus’s, we’d have a lot bigger family!
Entrance into the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 7 and Matthew 25 was not based upon one’s ability to uphold the correct traditions and teach the correct position on key issues; entrance was predicated upon bearing fruit by loving one’s neighbor, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and serving those in need.
Show me a person who does that, and I will show you a person I will happily worship alongside. It doesn’t matter what form of worship they prefer. It doesn’t matter what their rocky past looks like. It doesn’t matter how often or in what ways they take the Lord’s Supper. What matters is the fruit they produce in the life they live for Jesus.
That’s my brothers, my sisters, and my mothers.
Jesus didn’t come to give us lists of laws and a pattern of worship. He came to give us “grace upon grace” through the truth of the gospel.
“From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace., The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is the only Son, himself God, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (John 1:16–18).