Saturday, August 4, 2012

Why I am Giving Up on Traditional Values

It was tough to come to this decision, but I am dumping traditional values.  After all, Jesus rebelled against the traditional values of his day.  And he replaced them with what?  The even more traditional values of a much earlier day.  Jesus rebelled against the religious leaders' use of the law to benefit themselves and to control others.  But the law was never intended to do that.  

It was like a railing alongside the road of faith that they were to walk, serving as a kind of marker for dangerous territory that should be avoided.  But what they had done, and we often do, is turn the law into a moral code to which we cling.  It is not the thing that keeps us from going too far in one direction or another.  It is the thing to which we cling and on which we fix our gaze. 

Jesus knows that we were not intended to live that way.  We were intended to follow God by faith.  But sin kept us from knowing how to do that.  We could no longer see that road and so we needed the railing - the law.  Jesus came to give us back our sight.  Now, we simply keep our eyes on him, and there is no more need for the rails.  Once again, we are able to embrace the pre-law value of walking by faith. 

But there is a large caveat here.  The danger still exists if one wanders too far off to the side of the road.  The drop off is severe and life-threatening.   The fact that the railing is no longer there does not mean we are free to cross the lines where it used to be without consequence.  Some try to imagine that in doing away with the railing, Jesus was taking us on a new and uncharted journey down a more modern road that would not be so challenging to our spiritual fitness.  But in truth, he was taking us down the same road we had always been on, but the removal of the rails makes it look new, even though this is actually a return to its original appearance, with the very large exception that now Jesus walks it with us, leading the way.

There are many in our culture who warn us about our desire and willingness to violate God's law. In some cases they note our desire to re-interpret the law or ignore it entirely.  In reaction to this, some of us have become legalistic, rail-clinging Pharisees and called this action "the upholding of traditional values."   But those who say we are no longer under an antiquated law do have a point, of sorts, even if their remedy is as bad as the diagnosed condition.  

Under Christ, we are not under the law.  But what did Jesus mean when he said he came not to abolish but fulfill the law?  He meant, that he perfectly walks the way marked out by the law - the way of faith and trust - the way of God.  By giving us a person to follow, we do not have a thing to mark the way, but one with whom we can walk the way.  The law is now fulfilled in the way of Jesus.

So to those who say that we are no longer under the law, but now under the love of Christ, you are right.  But if we think that means that you and I are free to exit the road now that there are no more railings, and not be guilty of separating ourselves from the way of Jesus, then we simply do not understand the way of Jesus - the way of love.  To imagine that those boundaries have been moved or no longer exist and that we now have an excuse to cross them, well that's a very dangerous game to play with God.

Yes, there is a very real sense in which the traditional values of Jesus' day and ours are better left in the past.  Rail-clinging is no way to go through life.  So I am also going to be dumping my traditional values.  Instead, I am going to embrace the even more traditional value of living by faith in the one who perfectly walks the way of holiness and righteousness and justice and grace and love.  It seems to me to be a far, far better way.  It does not allow me to cross very dangerous lines, and it frees me from having to keep my eyes firmly fixed on the rails.  Now, I am free to simply keep them on Jesus. 

May you be set free from traditional values that take the form of a code to which you cling.  May you instead cling to the more ancient value of living the way of faith.  May you find the power to live that way in the grace of Jesus who gives us our sight and leads and lights the way.  And may we find what used to be on the other side of the rails entirely uninteresting as we become captivated by the One we follow and the life-giving way in which he leads us.  

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