Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 119:73-80; 145, Jeremiah 16:(1-9) 10-21, Romans 7:1-12, John 6:1-15
You’ve probably heard the saying “Rules were made to be broken.” The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, phrased it a little differently: “if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.” It seems like wonderful news that the law, fulfilled in Christ, no longer applies. Isn’t that the kind of freedom we desire?
Maybe not, since we seem eager to impose new laws. Over the years Christians have forbidden everything from dancing to haircuts, and enforced cultural traditions as religious rules. It’s so much easier to navigate a system of laws rather than a commandment to love. But this isn’t the only reason it’s harder to accept living under grace than living under the law.
Accepting grace means accepting a God of unconditional love. That means God is willing to forgive people we’d rather He didn’t: ex-spouses, people who’ve wronged us, terrorists, etc. In the story of Jonah, the reluctant prophet wanted God to withhold forgiveness so badly that God had to deliver him to Nineveh via giant fish. There’s a little Jonah in all of us. Knowing God will forgive people we can’t (or won’t) rubs us the wrong way, so we return to the law even if God hasn’t.
It’s not like we’re any easier on ourselves. If we were eager to believe we could be unconditionally loved and forgiven, therapists would go out of business. The world teaches us we must prove ourselves in order to be valued. Jesus tells us we are already valued, and asks us to live lives that prove it. Sometimes we have to untie a lifetime of spiritual and psychological knots before are free to believe that. But once we are able to embrace it, we want it for others as well.
Maybe rules were made to be broken, but we were not. God desires wholeness for each of us. Christ teaches us how to mend our souls – to sand down the jagged edges and mend the cracks – by tending to each other’s brokenness. When the law is love, the penalty is more love.
Comfort: God’s love is unconditional.
Challenge: If you can’t bring yourself to forgive someone, at least pray for them.
Prayer: Gracious and Merciful God, I am humbled by and grateful for your love. Amen.
Discussion: Do you really believe God loves you unconditionally? Why or why not?
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