Love Interprets The Law

Matthew 16:20-28

Arguing about the Bible and what is God’s will is as frustrating as arguing with a no-kill pet humane center. Everyone knows what’s best for the ones they are trying to protect. I ran into this on Friday. It wasn’t a biblical thing, so I’m not equating it totally to binding and loosing the laws of Moses. This is more about how we deal with decisions that others make when we don’t agree with them.

My wife and I have been planning to adopt two kittens after the loss of the second half of a pair we had for fourteen years. She found a kitten to adopt last Monday. So the search began for a playmate/companion. We looked on the internet and found a kitten that met our requirements at the no-kill pet center in Metropolis. Today, I drove thirty miles to get it.

After looking it over and saying I’d take it, I started to fill out this two page legal contract and sign it. Except I couldn’t sign it because I was agreeing that if I broke any of their requirements they could sue me. We plan to have the cats declawed, which they think is inhumane. They are right that a cat without claws cannot defend itself if it goes outside. Many people decide they don’t need their animals at some point and they drop them in the wild, or the suburbs, where they are defenseless.

If I wanted that kitten, I had to agree to their terms. My wife and I don’t want our furniture ripped to shreds and we have proved to be responsible cat owners who don’t let our cats outside, so we couldn’t do business.

I couple of years ago, I might have gotten angry about driving sixty miles round-trip. But what good would it do me? It is what it is. I drove home kitten-less and we’ll continue to search for one that we can give a great home.

So how do we make decisions that are emotional bombs because they revolve around our understandings of the Bible? First is to remember that the Bible is a communal book that calls us together to discuss why we might consider changes. Jesus said when two or three get together to consider binding and loosing (Matt. 18:18-20), he is in our midst. He’s the one who reminds us that peace comes to us when make choices in his name.

I have five things to consider as you discuss the need for any changes.

How To Decide What Should Be Bound And What Should Be Loosed

1)    Try to decide what you think Jesus would do. Where does compassion appear?

2)    Use the Golden Rule, Jesus’ own summary of the Sermon on the Mount. Will this rule
hurt someone?

3)    Use the fruits of the Spirit to determine if this action generates peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, self-control to those who are hurting.

4)    Since I’m Lutheran, I tend to pay attention to what Martin Luther said about it…

Paragraph #8. Therefore we conclude that all law, divine and human, treating of outward conduct, should not bind any further than love goes. Love is to be the interpreter of law…. The reason for enacting all laws and ordinances is only to establish love, as Paul says, Rom. 13:10, “Love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.” Sermon on Luke 14:1-11 taken from volume 5:159-168 of The Sermons of Martin Luther, published by Baker Book House (Grand Rapids, MI, 1983).

5)    I have one “Don’t do this.” Don’t worry about protecting God’s honor. Luther also
said, “God doesn’t need us to protect him.” It’s severely egotistical to think God needs the protection of humans in that way. I agree. We are usually protecting our own limited concepts of God when we think our choices preserve the honor of the Unknown.

So that’s it. Jesus has given those who comprehend his teachings and his revelation of God the authority to bind and to loose Scripture. He probably knew some future disciples would abuse this power to advance their own agendas and protect their own understandings of God. Yet he gave them the keys anyway. You can only protect people to a point. Some will use their keys to enter the kingdom of heaven, and others will use them to keep others out. It is what it is.

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