Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hebrews 10:1-10

Some time ago I read an article about establishing contracts in troubled marriages. In other words, as a way of creating a better path ahead, both parties create a document where they agree to do certain things.

The article I read said that in general, this approach does not work very well. Why? Because marriages were never meant to be legalistic undertakings, governed by rules and regulations. They were (and are!), of course, meant to be an expression of love. And frankly—if people won’t do something for love’s sake, it is unlikely they’ll do it just for the sake of satisfying a contract.

That is a lot of what the writer to the Hebrews is saying in this passage. The Law is good as far as it goes, but Christianity—like a marriage!-- was never meant to be a matter of simply observing rules and regulations. It is meant to be a matter of love.

That’s not to say that there are not things we should and should not do. The Law is most helpful in clarifying those, just as clarifying expectations in a marriage is a great gift to give one’s spouse. But we do these things, and live up to these expectations, because we want to, not because we have to.

True, it is not always that way. Sometimes we do what we have to even if we don't really want to. But I think the principle still holds—in the larger sense, we still want to do what is right (by God or our spouse) however we might feel about it in the moment.

And that’s the whole thing about sacrifices. Sacrifices are tit for tat; a strict legalistic correspondence between what is done and what is required in response. So, when some new offense is committed, a new sacrifice must be made, over and over again. There is nothing in reserve, no writing of the fundamental wrong which is at our being and not in the action itself.

Only pure, infinite Love, offered in perfect freedom, can do this. And this, of course, is what God offers us in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

So let me ask us: Are our spiritual lives more a matter of “have to” or “want to”? Are we still stuck in the old way of satisfying demands, real or perceived, or the new and better way of having our very hearts changed so that what we do is what we love?

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