In my post last week, I dove into Ephesians 5 & 6, giving my thoughts on how this concept plays out in the passage-- in marriage relationships, parenting relationships, and slave-master relationships (or, for those of us lucky enough to live in areas of the world where slavery is illegal, uncommon, or at least less visible, we may remember that slavery still exists today, or might we even generalize this to other economic relationships with superiors/subordinates?) If you didn't get to read it, I suggest you take a few minutes to do that HERE, since I'm building off of these ideas. Today, I'd like to take this thought a little further.
My thoughts last week on God's redemptive movement, on Jesus' "you have heard... but I tell you..." statements have left me thinking.
I've been thinking about the role of the Law in this trajectory. Jesus, who heals on the Sabbath and often counters the religious leaders, seemingly "breaking" the Law, is often spoken about as "fulfilling" the Law. In the passage I quoted from Matthew, He seems to be adding to the Law, providing a fullness to it, getting at the real intent. We see Him upholding and teaching the Spirit of the Law, while condemning the Pharisee's obsession with carrying out the letter of the Law.
The Law, to the Jewish people, consisted of the Torah(/Tanakh/Old Testament), "as well as laws instituted by the rabbis and certain customs." Just focusing on the Torah (1st five books of the Old Testament), there are 613 commands that the Jewish people had to follow. As a Christian, I've had the magnitude of that number presented to me as an impossible standard-- the reason that the Jewish people had to make sin and guilt offerings, and the reason for our necessity for Jesus and His redemptive death and resurrection. All. Those. Laws. But that, I was told, was what God required. The Law was presented to me as a recipe for perfection. But, since we couldn't be perfect, we had Jesus.
I've never really questioned that logic until now. But what if the Law wasn't the standard? What if the Law was just the minimum requirements?
What does it mean for our theology, for His grace, if we so failed at keeping the minimum requirements that we required a Savior?
What does it mean for the voices in our head that tell us we're doing pretty good?
What perspective does it put on Jesus' "But I tell you" statements in Matthew 5?
What about His response to the "poor" rich man who had followed the Law, but was still found lacking?
What does it mean about what the real ideal is? God's true standard? What does that tell us about the Kingdom of God? How does it change how we interpret the Scripture and sense His momentum towards greater justice as He truly reigns as King?
We read in Scripture that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But that doesn't mean that His approach at all points of history is the same. In fact, we know that His plan is different at different times. We see this in Scripture as we see the movement from a focus on the Jewish people in the Old Testament (although foreigners who were willing to follow God were welcomed, even included in Jesus' family tree) to the New Testament when the early church, led by Paul and Peter, evangelize to and are made up of both Jewish and non-Jewish people, with a call for unity between the Jewish and non-Jewish believers. And, at the end, in Revelation, we see the picture of the fullness of this: the unity we strive towards, realized.
If we can see the movement in these passages, it mimics the movement of Matthew 5, as God makes deeper and greater and wider our understanding of His plan.
If we can see the move towards inclusivity in the situation of the early believers (when myself- and most of you reading- are the people who would be once-excluded-but-now-accepted), then we should be ready to accept the possibility and the fact that God is calling for inclusivity in other areas as well. We need to consider what it means to serve an inclusive God. We need to consider what Jesus might ask us to do if we asked Him what we need to do to inherit eternal life? We need to ask where else might Jesus be moving us towards greater justice, unity, and inclusivity? And then we need to show up. Because if God's plan is a redemptive movement, we need to be ready to move.