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Law and Grace       Matt 5: 17 – 48

Rules and laws govern almost every aspect of our life. In surfing, there is a rule book and a code of conduct. This covers the actions of the surfer during the heat and during the competition. With most rules and laws there are fines or sanctions i.e. some kind of punitive arbitration that goes along with noncompliance. It’s the interpretation of the laws or what those laws rules and actions should look like that get us all muddled up. a good example from surfing would be Zeke Lau and John John Flores’s heat at Bells in 2018. Highlights below…

Stab Magazine… In his Round 3 clash against John John Florence, Zeke Lau used every dirty (and legal) trick in the book to ensure victory. 

Zeke won by using the law to its extreme to win… no fines no rules broken but a big uproar about Zeke’s tactics and interpretation of the rules… Stab mag .. (we are talking about “unsportsmanlike” behaviour, we’re talking about Zeke physically blocking John from moving deeper in the lineup during a non-priority situation, and then sitting mere inches from John, and occasionally paddling tight circles around him/over his board, while the Champ was waiting for a wave. )

It was his interpretation and the use of the rules to his advantage that caused outrage in some circles and excitement in others. Should victory have been denied and could it be decided whether or not Zeke’s antics were justified in the modern era of professional surfing.

People wanted some sort of punishment for his interpretation and actions since they did not match up to their expected level and expectations.

The accusation leveled at the church is that the same applies to entry to heaven; if you’re good and behave you get to enter if you are not and you do not follow the laws and statutes then entry is denied. The truth however is far from that statement. Entry to the kingdom of heaven is through Jesus and God’s grace extended towards unworthy people. 

Believe it or not, Christianity is not about good people getting better. If anything, it is good news for bad people coping with their failure to be good.   Tullian Tchividjian

Here in this passage, Jesus sets up in contrast to each other the law and his fulfillment of it. 

Matt 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

The Pharisees had a very strict interpretation of the law. They were famous for their righteousness. They calculated that the law contained 248 commandments and 365 prohibitions and they aspired to keep them all…

Here it seems Jesus sets us up to fail… Like the behaviour expectations of the surfing public, the interpretation of the law and its effect on behaviour seems harsh. 20 For I tell you unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. How can anyone live up to such a high standard?

Is this a doctrine of salvation for the very few by the attainment of extreme righteous works and deeds? It seems country to the first beatitude. Blessed are the poor in spirit.  

The law and its expectations and Jesus’ interpretation of it in the following verses in Matt 5 should make us feel inadequate. this is the great contrast between Law and Grace. the Law is meant to point out or inadequacy to be righteous and should make its poor in spirit and reap and mourn our state as such. God’s great immeasurable grace displayed in the law ultimately being fulfilled in and through Jesus should lift us from our malady. We can not attain entry to heaven Jesus has done that on our behalf.  

“Heaven is populated entirely by forgiven sinners”    Robert Farrar Capon

Many Christians will give a big nod to the statement I have just made but then they will assume that there is an accepted and unaccepted level of personal piety that they see as Christian behavior or mature or sanctified or holy or righteous or whatever sanctimonious word they want to use to apply the law to peoples lives again.

Law or Grace you can’t live under both?

Grace is the unmerited favor of God…. do you fully understand unmerited?

The law works fear and wrath; grace works hope and mercy.   Martin Luther

For grace is given not because we have done good works, but in order that we may be able to do them.       Saint Augustine Of Hippo

“Grace cannot prevail…until our lifelong certainty that someone is keeping score has run out of steam and collapsed.”   Robert Farrar Capon

Contrary to popular assumptions, the Bible is not a record of the blessed good, but rather the blessed bad. That’s not a typo. The Bible is a record of the blessed bad. The Bible is not a witness to the best people making it up to God; it’s a witness to God making it down to the worst people.

Tullian Tchividjian

Believe it or not, Christianity is not about good people getting better. If anything, it is good news for bad people coping with their failure to be good. Tullian Tchividjian