The Bare Soul - October 28 2012
Religious Expertise

Mark 7:9 - He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition."

We all have certain proclivities toward various things. Some of us are excellent at sports. That has never been one of my strong suits although I have been known to do a little running. Others of us have the gift of gab and are well-suited for things such as sales or even politics (possibly redundant). Seldom do any of us desire to be experts of the unseemly. I know when I was a practicing alcoholic I would chide those who drank occasionally or would venture out for that once a year party on New Years. Amateurs, I thought. To have this type of arrogance concerning those who drank alcohol less than I is the epitome of ignorance. Often, ignorance and arrogance go hand in hand. We may think we possess an enlightened understanding regarding something and may find out later how woefully we were mistaken. The litmus test for ignorant arrogance is often when others continue to tell us how wrong we are while we insist on our progressively heightened awareness. This type of denial is often very hard to dismantle for we have invested so much in propping up our beliefs accordingly.

The Jews had faithfully (and sometimes unfaithfully) practiced a set of commandments handed down by Moses for over a millennium when Jesus appeared on the scene. The Torah or the Law of Moses was the foundation of their strict practices, while the Prophets and the Writings were the other parts comprising their canon. This is what we would refer to as the Old Testament. (Not until after Jesus' time would they add even more rules and laws through the inclusion of the six volume Mishnah and the Gemara, both comprising what is known today as the Talmud.) They prided themselves in their "expert" interpretation of the Law and how it fit into Jewish society. However, Jesus often exposed this pride when addressing His religious counterparts. He pointed out how they had sacrificed the commandment of God in order to keep to their tradition. In context, the Lord was speaking concerning the ceremonial washing of hands, which Moses says nothing in this regard in the Law or the Pentateuch. Instead, they interpreted something God never required of them by taking commandments of cleanliness and building doctrine on something that was not there. By so doing, Jesus stated they had become experts in something they should be ashamed of rather than proud and arrogant as they had become.

To point the finger at the Pharisees is often to have three pointed back at ourselves. While we may not have a written form of the Talmud that we use to dissect the Law of God, we invariably do this in other ways. Compromise comes through forcing our own way rather than God's. It can often come in the most subtle ways also. Have we desired something we should not have? Then, we can sometimes justify our position by doing a little more for God in another area. We add to the law by trying to love someone a bit more so we can act a bit more rude to another through our self-justification. Or, we might fall into the trap of doing for God rather than being for God. To clarify, how often do we do for God because we are afraid not to? We have become so accustomed to giving to a certain charity or helping out a person in a certain way, yet we have lost our love in the midst of it. If we will allow the love of God to be our great motivator in whatever we do, then we will never fall short of His expectation. Jesus Himself stated that if we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind and our neighbor likewise, then we have fulfilled the Law (Luke 10:27). However, this takes sitting before the Lord and seeking His will everyday rather than assuming we know it from past experience.

Beloved, if we are faithful to love as Christ loved us, then we have fulfilled all the Law of God. However, this can only be accomplished through a surrendered life to Jesus Christ and His work of redemption. Do we pride ourselves in our arrogance to do something expertly? If so, we have undoubtedly missed the mark God desires us to hit. Whether they are unseemly things aforementioned or even notable things such as sports or works of charity, arrogance often shows our ignorance. However, when we seek to expertly love God and others from a place of humility, then we will soon recognize we are not an expert at anything. We will only demonstrate embarrassment when someone might suggest we are expertly showing the Savior to those around us. Love of this type is spontaneous and is not attained through rigorous study. It only comes through fierce obedience. The Law should indeed be our standard, but the Lord should always be our Guide on how to apply it. May we look to the former but trust the latter implicitly.

Heavenly Father, allow us to become experts at loving You and others. Guide us through Your Law, but help us never to think we have fulfilled it. Only Your Son has accomplished what we could never do. May we follow His guidance and become true sons and daughters through Your loving grace. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

 

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