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The Holy Bible by Jesus Christ

I remember a time when I did wonder. I mean He could have even eliminated the need for translations by writing it originally in all the world’s languages. He could have told us what was really important and where we have freedom to express our faith individually. Why leave it to eyewitnesses who often describe the same event differently no matter how anointed they may be and using language that can be translated imprecisely today? We wouldn’t have to spend so much time and energy debating with other believers over what is correct! I mean we can’t even agree what books should be included. And it is so important that we get it right … right?

Over time I began to reconsider. Did I really think a “text book” could better teach about the life of love the way it was meant to be lived? Could a “statement of doctrine” better tell about Jesus’ heart for feeding the hungry and healing the sick? Could it better express His values in opposing the political and religious elites of the day? And didn’t He teach us effectively what life was like in the kingdom by telling the parables and the Sermon on the Mount? And wasn’t it essential His message be a demonstration, rather than a rendition, of LOVE: that the God who created us loves us so much that even the glories of heaven itself wouldn’t allow us to be separated and that, through His initiation, we were free to return His love, to limit ourselves as He did, to put other’s needs ahead of our own, as He did, to experience the divine as He experienced the flesh?

A group of us at work were having a discussion about driving habits; seems someone got passed “like they were standing still” on their way into work that morning by a co-worker they recognized. In his defense, the accused party proclaimed he had never received a speeding ticket. I chimed, “Probably not because you didn’t deserve one.” “Well, yes,” he admitted, “but I never speed with the kids in the car!”

Suddenly that light went on for me. None of the laws enacted, none of the signs posted on the highway, none of the threats of police presence nor fines could slow him down. They only made him speculate how much he could exceed the speed limit and not have pay the consequence. Five miles over? Ten miles?

That’s why the law doesn’t work, according to Paul, to make us righteous – it only serves to show our true nature as sinners. Since it is external, it tries to change our behavior but that only leads us to legalism, self-righteousness, and minimalism. This usually ends up to be a list of requirements of what’s right and what’s wrong. So we try to decide what’s the least I have to do to avoid hell and get to heaven. It is not that the law is not good. The law is an expression of God’s nature – it is wrong to lie because God doesn’t lie, to covet because God doesn’t covet. The problem is, we are not good; our nature is not good and needs to be redeemed.

But love, the love for his children, changed my coworker from the inside out. It is love that provokes us to sacrifice for the sake of another. Love causes us to look beyond ourselves to God’s agenda and to the needs of others. Love fertilizes the ground for the seed of truth to take root and grow; for the Holy Spirit to work to change us back into the image in which we were created, back into the image of God and the likeness of Jesus Christ. God changes us from the inside out. Obedience becomes an expression of our love of the Father. “If anyone loves me he will obey my teaching,” Jesus proclaimed. (John 14:21)

This is not say that doctrine in unimportant or without consequences (our view of God affects how we relate to Him and others) but that each should be faithful to their belief while pursuing Jesus, who is TRUTH. Paul is shrewd in this area. He writes in Romans 15:1, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak.” I have never heard anyone say he or she was the weak person! We always hear the text and identify with the strong (or the right) person! So if we all see ourselves as the strong one, then the burden to treat others with deference, falls on each of us.

How do we do that? Paul writes in Romans 14:22, “So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God.” Silence! What a concept! We seek unity at the highest common denominator: a passion for Jesus and compassion for souls. All who know Jesus as Savior and Lord are joining together as brothers and sisters to work in the family business.

Howard Magness

highertogether@comcast.net

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