The Flaw in the Law(3) – God Enters the Picture

(continued from The Flaw in the Law(2) – The Good, the Righteous, and the Overwhelmed)

“As You Did It To Me”

The Golden Rule declares that we are to use ourselves as the point of reference in regard to how to treat someone else, after all: “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it …” [Ephesians 5:29].  Generally that is a sound concept, but again there is “a flaw in the Law.”

How about a masochist who enjoys the experience of pain, or believes he deserves pain as the result of perhaps guilt that he feels – is he to treat others as he would want to be treated?  Perhaps the person is a sex addict.  Truly, that is not a healthy trait, and yet would you not have to say, “… as you would yourself be treated – no……,  not as you would be treated but rather as … as … as …” as who should be treated?  Who is to become the standard upon which this Golden Rule is to refer?

Using ourselves as the basis for a law presents an unstable and elusive platform from which to judge.  Too many are the places in human nature where what is godly and healthy have become twisted.  Again, one may be “blameless” in that he might say that he has done what the law demanded and yet he can be far from what the intent of the law, of the spirit of the law, and of God is.

Christianity answers that problem, although it really puts the pressure on the Golden Rule.

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?”
And the King will answer them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” [Matthew 25:37-40]

In other words, “Do unto others, not as I would have them do unto me, but rather, as I would treat my Lord.”  This now presents a more stable and even more demanding platform from which to decide what is the best and most appropriate action.

The Image of God

God created man in His own Image; in the Image of God He created him…  [Genesis 1:27]

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the Image of His Son, that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren.  [Romans 8:29]

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the Glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same Image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.  [II Corinthians 3:18]

God deliberately created the universe so the He could not be seen except in special circumstances.  Where then are we to look to find especially His heart?  God created a mirror, somewhere where His Image would be found: He created man.  There are things that God will not do unless by the hand of a human.  If the Samaritan had not helped the Jew in the parable, angels would not have suddenly appeared, nor would God suddenly reach down and bind up the man’s wounds.  Unless another human came along who would do these things, the man would die.

This is the honor, the privilege and the responsibility of being in “the Image of God,” and despite our rebellion into sin, God never rescinded this position that mankind has, that is, He did not turn to the angels and say, “Well, I guess you will have to take over.”  Rather, like a parent who refuses to do the child’s chores for him, God keeps pushing humanity to finally take responsibility for who it is.  Jesus, the perfect Image, set before us the “the Image of God”’s version of the Golden Rule:

You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  [Matthew 5:39-45]

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Love Poured Into the Heart

Now hope does not disappoint us, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.  [Romans 5:5]

The Christian family of Corrie ten Boom (author of The Hiding Place) protected Jews in Nazi occupied Holland during the Second World War, in the greater sense of the Golden Rule just discussed above.  The family was betrayed by a neighbor who was jealous of the father’s successfulness, and Corrie and her sister were sent to a concentration camp, never to see their parents again.  Throughout their ordeal, the sister especially would realize the subtle ways in which God was blessing the two girls; however, ultimately she died during that time.

A while later, because some clerk somewhere mixed up one of the inmate numbers on a list of ten people to be released, Corrie was given her freedom.  She dedicated herself to be “a tramp for the Lord” – a vagabond who wandered the world to tell people her story of how the Lord had sustained her and her sister during a time when most people would think that God had abandoned them.  She told of how one time she felt that God had wanted her to go and speak in North America, so she booked passage on a ship to New York, even though she had no clue as to what to do once she landed.  When she disembarked from the ship, a gentleman met her and told her that the Lord had told him to met her and provide a place for her to stay.  Of such experiences was her relationship with her Savior.

While she was speaking in Germany after the war, a man approached her and asked if she remembered him.  No, she could not place him.  Then he told her his name and she remembered – she remembered him as one of the more cruel guards at the camp and a flood of memories washed over her.  He told her that he had since become a Christian and asked for her forgiveness.  Swirling in a sea of horror, she could not.

Silently crying out to the Lord Who would die for His enemies [Romans 5:6-11], she pleaded the above verse [v 5], for the love that is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  She then found herself able to look the man in the eye and honestly tell him that she forgave him.

“The Love of God”

The expression “the love of God” is a fascinating one.  Is this God’s great love for us; or, as Martin Luther began each of his explanations to the Ten Commandments, is it how we respond to His love, “we should fear and love God that we may” do what is His will; or, as the Image of God, is it His love reflected outward toward our neighbor – or are all three one continuum or chain-reaction of love?  Ultimately all three are the one love “poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, Who has been given to us.”  Only as we stand under the waterfall of God’s steadfast love, only then could we love Him in return, and only then could we have the reservoir of love with which to love others:  “We love, because He first loved us” [I John 4:19].

Therefore, (with apologies to the Canadian Blood Services) “It is in us to give” – “we love”:  not we should, we ought, we must, we could, we hope to, we might – it is just the simple “we love.”  This then is to be our dual motivation for our practice of God’s and Jesus’ Golden Rule: because of our love for our Lord and God, and because of His love in us, we step forward to “do to others….”

God equips us with what we need.  It means that we do not pay attention to our feelings, but rather to the Word of God.  Even when we feel hatred, apathy, or nothing, God says we already have what we need.  Our task is not to make ourselves love, nor to make ourselves feel love, nor to make ourselves want to love, nor to wait until love rises in us – our task is to act out the love God says is already there, already “poured into our hearts.”  Actually the call is not so much “to love” as much as it is “to believe” – to believe what God declares is already “in us to give.”

In one sense, this is Good News (Gospel), because we discover that God does not command without first equipping us.  Yet, at the same time, it is Law: we are “without excuse” whenever we are called to act out this love poured into our hearts.  Throughout these last points, God’s version becomes harder – no, impossible!  Even when we are so equipped, as we realize how broad and how deep not just the Golden Rule can be, but especially God’s version of it, not only does our human nature fight against it, but we are overwhelmed by the vastness of what is required.  We need something more.  We need a Savior.

And we have One! (next post)

(Continued in The Flaw in the Law(4) – The Savior Enters the Picture)

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