ĒWhy should you confront a person that does wrong things?Ē Some people say that we should confront because of love for the person. However, doing what is right can result in suffering. For example, disassociating with corrupt friends will cause broken friendships. Therefore, to tell a person to do what is right may not look loving because it causes discomfort for the person. It may be true that telling the truth is good for the person but truth-telling could become a path of suffering. There must be a higher good than a personís comfort. There must be something behind the events of history (personal and corporate) that works things out in such a way that doing the right things eventually result in true fulfillment.
The view that we confront for love sometimes goes against human instinct. Sometimes we want a person to do what is right because their wrong choices awaken anger (frustration, irritation) in us. I believe that built into the human being, as made in the image of God, is a concern for justice. We confront because our sense of justice is violated, not necessarily because of our love for a person.
The question of why we should do the right things is very important as we shape society, our children, and ourselves. We all face different perspectives on right and wrong. Some people say that pre-marital sex is fine as long as two persons love each other. Some people say that pre-marital sex is always wrong.
There is a question in philosophy, ďAre things right because God says it is right, or does God say something is right because it is right according to some universal law.Ē Notice the difference between the two options. In the first option, God is the standard of right or wrong. In the second option, a universal law is the standard of right and wrong. The second option makes something be higher than God, the universal law. This goes against biblical teaching, that God is sovereign over everything and does what he pleases. The first option makes people suspicious because a personal being could be capricious, deciding at one time that something is wrong and deciding another time that something is right. How do we resolve this?
The Christian doctrine of the trinity offers a solution to this issue. There is one God who is a community of three persons and the three persons are bound by love. A Godly society would reflect the love between the three persons of the trinity. This one God is also known to be merciful and compassionate, and he does not go back on his promises. Godís mercy and compassion is shown in Godís encounter with Israel, whom God punishes but continually forgives. Godís mercy and compassion is also shown in the work of Jesus proclaiming the kingdom by healing the sick, casting out demons, teaching the way of humility before God and man, and culminating in his death for the sins of Godís people. The individual is called to follow Jesus to the cross, where love and sacrifice triumphs over self-seeking. Godís mercy and compassion is also shown in the works of Godís people, as they are moved by Godís Spirit, to create a merciful and compassionate society. What biblical history shows us is that God is constant in his faithfulness, not capricious. The law is about love.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Cor 13:4-7
In his providence, God provided human beings with a standard of behavior called the law. Godís law is written in manís conscience, giving him a sense of right or wrong, as an individual or as a community. God also encoded his law in covenant with his people. What was his purpose for doing this?
First, law creates a harmonious society. It is through law that harmony is accomplished in the community. The law is the way that Godís people can have peace and prosperity in the land. Therefore, law comes from the heart of a loving God. Wisdom requires obedience to the law. Disobedience to Godís law causes the destruction of the people. God commanded against sexual immorality because sexual immorality ruins harmony in the land- harmony between neighbors and harmony with God who calls his people to be a faithful people. To follow the law is to live wisely.
Second, as man is confronted with his struggle with following Godís law, and the reality of his broken life and society broken because of disobedience to the law, he is driven to despair. He comes face to face with ingrained sin, his total depravity and moral inability. Because he realizes that he could not follow Godís law, and therefore he is subject to Godís judgment and to alienation with his fellow man, he is driven to recognize his need for Godís mercy and power. He realizes that only God could transform his mind, heart, and will- to deliver him from the power of sin in himself. He realizes that God must provide the sacrifice to make atonement for his sins, to deliver him from judgment, which is the penalty of sin. Through the law, the sinner is driven to Godís mercy in Christ, and to his dependence on the work of Godís Spirit.
The third use of the law as an instrument for the sanctification of the believer is controversial. I contend that the Christian is not to live according to the letter of the law anymore. He is freed from the law, and must not seek written regulations for his life. The law is one and dividing it into parts that we are still under obligation to follow and those that we are not causes confusion. A vast majority of Christians donít follow Kosher laws, which is abrogated for the purpose of the expansion of God's people to include Gentiles who are not under the Jewish external laws. However, the one who violates them is just as abominable to God as the one who commits sexual immorality. What do we make of this change? It shows that the law is an unbroken unit, it must be followed as a whole. Therefore, freedom from the law would mean freedom from the whole written law, not just parts of it. Does this mean that the Old Testament law is now useless and the Christian can do whatever he wants? No. The Christian does not focus on following the letter of the law but on being guided by the Spirit of the law. The Christian lives by the spirit behind the law, Godís spirit promised to his people in the New Covenant. Behind the kosher laws is the Spirit of holiness that needs to characterize God's people Jew or Gentile. God promised that his people would have his law written in their hearts through the indwelling spirit. The Christian is to walk with the Spirit and this means that he examines his life according to the fruit of the Spirit (see the end of this paper for a description). He is to examine whether the fruits of the Spirit are being displayed in his relationships at home, at work, in his business, in the public square. Does he get irritated easily or does he display patience? He is not to look for specific rules to follow, but to manifest the fruit. By walking with the Spirit, he gains power over his sinful self.
Now, its true that in this present age, man is still a sinner, and therefore still needs the letter of the law to guide him to godly choices (sanctification). In the future age, when humanity is completely free from his sinful flesh, then the law will not be needed anymore. His whole self will be transformed by God's spirit, and he does not choose between right and wrong, but he will be completely attached to what is right in God's sight. Therefore, for now the law is placed before us a guide to make the right choices. That freedom of choice is not a good thing but a manifestation of our propensity to make ungodly choices. The Christian prays that he may be so filled by God's spirit that his life manifests the fruits of the Spirit without any deliberation of the will.
Fruit of the Spirit- Love, Joy, Peace, Forbearance, kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control
Some Christians feel that the goal of the reformation is to bring Church practices, like worship, in line with the letter of Godís word. They believe that we can only do in worship what God has commanded. This principle has been purported to protect the church from idolatry. On the other side are Christians who feel that we should be able to do in worship whatever is not forbidden. I contend that both positions are still focused on following the letter of the law, instead of the spirit of the law. The latter side looks to scripture as sort of a policeman to point to us if we are violating the written law. It is inadequate because Godís desire is not just that we not do the wrong things but that in worship, just like in every area of our lives, we must be guided by Godís spirit. The former side looks to scripture sort of a manual to tell us how exactly to worship. This thinking tends towards rigidity, suspecting any practice that deviates from what we are used to or what we prefer, as unbiblical. Rigidity is a detriment to mission. We can be blinded into thinking that our way is what is authorized by God, therefore we become intolerant of other ideas, and end up pushing others away. ďRight practiceĒ does not necessarily translate to right heart condition, which is what God ultimately cares about.
I propose that worship be guided by the right Spirit. Instead of looking at dance, for example, and saying that it is forbidden because it is not commanded, we can look at whether the dance presented in worship praises God. We need to discern whether we are doing things out of a right spirit. For example, the practice of a person singing in front of church is not expressly forbidden. However, the singer could knowingly or unknowingly be using the podium to entertain rather than to lead people in praise. The singer must examine his heart whether he is leading worship for the glory of God or for his own ego. God does command us to praise him but scripture is not a manual on how specifically to do it. Godís flexibility is shown in his missional character. He encourages the worship of all nations of differing languages and cultures. That would inevitably lead to differences in worship practices.
Many times, because of our anger or other emotions, we are unwilling to show forth the fruits of the Spirit and/or unable to do so. What are we to do? We pray to God to help us be willing and able to follow the way of the Spirit. Fortunately, God is invested in our growth and has provided means of grace to help us in the journey. The word exposes us to the reality and the promises of God. The sacraments are visual reminders of our identity. Together they engage our senses. God providentially brings us into situations that force us to exercise the fruits of the Spirit. For example, a job loss may make a person repent of his anger problems that caused him his job. Consequences make us seek to be transformed. God providentially brings people into our lives to challenge our spirits, through their care, admonitions, or example. When the means of grace (word, sacrament, providence) are contemplated with the eyes of faith, which is a gift of God, not something we conjure up, we are transformed.
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