A Proper Reading
Of The Bible
Encourages Good Sense
The Bible is often treated like a list of inflexible laws, meaning every statement is applied as if it is a hard fast rule, no variation allowed.
Those who take this approach use the remarks of Jesus to reinforce the idea:
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-19
A quick reading might give the impression that Jesus endorses the “rule book” approach but a few verses later He said things that would challenge this idea. He actually moved a few legal goal posts.
- Not murdering someone is a good rule to follow but avoiding getting angry with them is even better, 5:21-22.
- Not sleeping with a woman, other than your wife, is a good rule to follow but not entertaining the idea is even better, 5:27-28.
- Not committing the sins to which you are vulnerable is noteworthy but avoiding the situations which tempt you to commit those sins is even better, 5:29-30.
- Taking no more than an “eye’s” worth of penalty for an “eye’s” worth of offense is a good rule to follow but taking less is even better, 5:38-39.
- Not taking revenge on your enemies is a good rule to follow but actively loving them is even better, 5:43-44.
Obviously, Jesus saw the law as restrictive not prescriptive. It was designed to limit the expression of our human tendencies and prevent us from going too far in our zeal for justice. And His remarks change our perspective entirely.
Not only should our lust for revenge be limited by the law it should be replaced by love and taking that approach helps us focus on being more like God. Jesus clearly made that point.
That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven, 5:45.
Loving your enemies instead of hating them is the God-like thing to do and one purpose of the law was to help us learn this approach. It was designed primarily to inhibit our natural responses to sinful tendencies and offenses. It provides boundaries not step by step instructions. The law is a guidebook not a rule book.* [Read more…]