What rules should we now live by?
Are there rules to help us ‘walk the walk’?
If we consider ourselves “free range” Christians, with freedom to roam, study and worship, then the medieval Christian was most definitely factory farmed. Herded into imposing churches and cathedrals, their Christian life was defined by externalities, necessary actions called sacraments, rather than by any internal conviction or life in the Spirit. The common man had no access to the Bible or the great truths of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. It’s fair to say that very few were loved into the Kingdom in those days, the laity were too busy with the physical needs of surviving from day to day and the clergy were too busy basking in their debating skills and general disdain for the laity. Those outside the “church”, such as Jews and Waldenses, were either mercilessly persecuted or evangelised at the point of the sword.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)
Love was very much a missing ingredient in those brutal times, the Gospel had become fodder for debate and argument, not a blueprint for living godly lives.
Skipping many generations since then, though we are currently living in calmer times, we have unconsciously inherited this Greek attitude of debate over conduct. In many ways this is the source of the Christian stereotypes in the secular world. We must make no excuses for being judgemental, because we stand for uncomfortable universal truths, but quite often - putting it in modern vernacular - our attitude sucks. We often come across as self-righteous, miserable, boring, cold, humourless and arrogant because we are so certain of the rightness of our cause and the force of our arguments that we believe that this alone is going to convince others.
We are familiar with this:
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have ... (1 Peter 3:15a)
But what about the rest of the verse?
... But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15b-16)
But the last word on this has to be with the apostle John.
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7)
Walking in the light, what a concept! It’s translating your internal convictions into external actions. It’s all about doing stuff, not just believing it. It’s about showing love to others, not just debating about it. It’s about giving of yourself to others, not just being able to recite the relevant Bible verses. It’s at the very core of a Hebraic attitude. If we do this, then we can really have true fellowship with each other, no hidden sins or agendas and, if sin does creep in, as it so often does, the assurance that the blood of Jesus deals with this on our behalf.
The Jews have an interesting word, halacha. It means “walking” or “the way to go”, in the sense of rules to live by. Jewish halacha comprises the teachings of the Torah, interpreted by the rabbis through the oral teachings of the Talmud. It is a complete set of rules for living, covering all aspects of life and is in a state of continuous development, adapting itself to the ever-changing World.
We can take this and develop a Messianic halacha, rules that Jesus has given us to live by, so that we can be walking in the light. Our goal, of course, is to become like Jesus:
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
To help us on the way, though, we too need a set of rules for living. Unlike the rabbis, although they base their halacha on the Hebrew Scriptures, they are as interpreted by the rabbis. We must base our Messianic halacha primarily on the New Testament, with the Old Testament also providing general instructions and principles.
If we walk in the light, keep the full counsel of God and act Hebraically, allowing our faith to dictate our actions and attitudes then perhaps unbelievers can really see Jesus reflected in us and want to know more about what makes us tick.
Let’s pray that we may all show a good reflection.
For the previous article in this series, click here.
For the next article in this series, click here.
To find out what is my favourite book of the Bible, click here.
You can reach Steve with any comments or questions at the Saltshakers Web Community website.