WHY DO SO FEW UNDERSTAND? The Truth About Love, Law and Grace!
Michael A Snyder
GENUINE LOVE and compassion are among the rarest commodities today. Why? Why shouldn't this world be filled with love, joy, hope and peace? "Let all you do be done in love," wrote the apostle Paul in his first letter to the young Corinthian church (I Cor. 16:14, Moffatt). Then why, for nearly 2000 years, has this advice of the apostle Paul been so maligned and neglected? No advice is more sorely needed by this world today. Everywhere you turn, evidence of man's inhumanity to man lies in ample view. From the corporate boardrooms to the war-torn back-roads of Africa and Asia, human suffering and anguish abounds. Violent crime ravages once-safe European and American cities; racial tension and strife boils in multiple dozens of cities, villages and boroughs around the globe. Once-happy and solid families are split by emotion-wrenching divorce. The list goes on and on. But paradoxically, man is more advanced technologically and materially — seemingly better equipped through sophisticated communication systems to learn from his mistakes — than ever before. So why don't we have universal happiness to complement our material advancement instead of an anxiety-filled world? Why are we unable to practice the apostle Paul's advice to do everything out of love? We need to answer this question! We need to learn the cause of world evils — the fundamental failure of mankind to correct ourselves before this world bristling with nuclear armament becomes a devastated wasteland! Amidst all this human suffering, the words of the prophet ring out: "The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace" (Isa. 59:8). Though this world desperately tries to steer itself toward peace, effort after effort fails. Meanwhile we inch closer to social chaos, our cities teeming with seemingly insolvable problems.
What and Why Violence?
In our so-called enlightened age, professionals of the social sciences are unable to explain what they term "socially deviant behavior" — the criminal mind. In a private conversation recently, one professor of a major American university admitted to the author that sociology had not yet unlocked the murky mystery surrounding a brain committed to disrupting the mores and laws of society. "But," he continued, "we have uncovered what we understand to be major factors related to the formation of a criminal mind." Do you know what it is? The lack of LOVE. Psychologist William Glasser concurs: "When we cannot satisfy our total need for love, we will without fail suffer and react with many familiar psychological symptoms, from mild discomfort through anxiety and depression to complete withdrawal from the world around us" (Reality Therapy, p. II). Erich Fromm' adds, "Love is the only sound and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence" (The Art of Loving, pp. 111-112). But what kind of love? And how is it acquired — and expressed?
Looking for Answers
There is a cause for every effect. Political, social and family problems just don't "happen" — they are the result of dynamic forces. The crux of the problem lies in the near universal nonrecognition that true love is a spiritual element! Philosophers, psychologists, psychoanalysts and a host of researchers have developed hypotheses about love by the dozens! No one, it seems, is willing to recognize a standard to measure love by. "Love," as viewed by humans, can be anything from a moral structure to "situation ethics." Just what is "love" ? "God is love" (I John 4:8), reveals your Bible — the ultimate source of spiritual definitions! Yet, many who read this don't comprehend what it means. Consider: God is much more than mere feeling. He is much more than a warm, fuzzy idea. He has lived forever (Psa. 93:2), is all-powerful (Psa. 147:5), has the greatest mind (Isa. 55:8; I Cor. 2:16) and has brought into being and loves His creation — mankind' (John 3:16). Your mind can't grasp how great He is! The problem for human beings — your problem — is that man has acquired a natural hostility to God! From the very first human in the Garden of Eden to billions alive today, not a single one naturally desires to surrender his or her life to the God of love. Shocking? Think of this. God revealed His way of life — His way of love — to the first two humans (Gen. 1-2). Armed with God-given definitions of right and wrong, Adam (the first human) deliberately chose the way that led contrary. to God — to decide for himself what is love, what is good and evil (Gen. 3:6, 17; I Tim. 2:14). He rejected God's way of love and give and concern for others, setting the stage for all humans to follow. And the basic attitude Adam acquired is still in humans today! When the Bible says "God is love," it reveals the very nature of God. God embodies a "give" way of life, a way of outgoing concern. God wants you and me to be happy, to have a zestful, fulfilling life and to be able to share it with others — that's love (John 10:10, III John 2). To direct us toward this way that leads to happiness, God defines love: "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments" (I John 5:3). This is a truth few understand! When asked what the greatest of the Ten Commandments were, Jesus Christ boiled them down to their two basic essentials: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matt. 22:36-39). Consider this: the first four commandments revealed in Exodus 20 show you how to love God. The last six reveal the way you are to love your neighbor. But how does the natural unconverted mind view this? "The mind that is set on the flesh [material, physical things] is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (Romans 8:7-8 RSV). Man in his natural state wants little to do with God. Since God is love, man unwittingly rejects true love that would bring happiness.
Working Toward a Solution
God's way of life, expressed in 10 summary points called the Ten Commandments, is a living force. When you break one or more of these points, there is a penalty. Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually you and others suffer. Take first the physical example. What if everyone suddenly decided to stop committing adultery and ended all relationships with homosexuals and prostitutes? Venereal disease would disappear! Prostitution would vanish! Teenage pregnancies would soon disappear. People as a whole would immediately be happier. But man says: "I don't want to obey God's law. I reject it. I make my own rules!" So men and women by the millions suffer needlessly. God, of course, does have the power to stop man from going the way of sin. But that is exactly what man doesn't want God to do. So God has allowed man 6,000 years to make his own rules and decisions, to experience firsthand the pain and suffering that results from imperfect human governments. Man's choices are eloquently described in Deuteronomy 30:19-20: "I call heaven and earth to record this... that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: THEREFORE CHOOSE LIFE, that both thou and thy seed may live: that thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him...." The Bible, however, reveals something far more ominous than physical suffering for breaking God's law. When you choose to break one of the 10 summary points that define love by doing the opposite, the Bible says you sin. What is sin? "Sin is transgression of the law" (I John 3:4). The Ten Commandments are a blessing — they show you what sin is (Rom. 3:20,4:15, 5:13-14). The apostle James terms the Ten Commandments "the perfect law of liberty" (Jas. 1:25). They guide one to the way of genuine happiness. But when you've broken one or more of these laws, you've got a problem — you're as good as dead. What is the final payoff of sin? "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23).
How does this concern you? Unless you live the way of love — which is to know the way to salvation — you are a walking dead person even as you read this article! You have no claim to eternal life. You may think you haven't broken any of the Ten Commandments, but you have. "For all [including you and me] have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). As a sinner — a transgressor of the law — you have come "under the law," that is, subject to its penalty: death. For breaking the Ten Commandments, you are now subject to what the Bible calls "the curse of the law" (Gal. 3:13). You have no hope of eternal life. But there's GOOD NEWS. Someone has paid the penalty in your stead. Your very Creator has paid the penalty of law transgressions in your place. God created all things by Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:9). As the Creator of the human race, Jesus Christ died — in the first century A.D. — to become the ultimate and complete sacrifice for sin. But you still have to choose and accept this sacrifice. You cannot casually accept the blood of Christ as atonement for your past sins. God wants, first, to see a change of attitude from hostility to submission in obedience! "Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins..." (Acts 2:38). Repentance is another word few really understand. To repent means to change your life. Instead of going your way (which is actually the way of Satan) you must begin to obey God — to love God by keeping His commandments (I John 5:3). As John the Baptist stated, "Bring forth... fruits [deeds, acts] meet [appropriate, confirming] for repentance" (Matt. 3:8). But you not only have to repent, you must believe God (Mark 1:15). Believe what He says — and that means to believe the message He sent by Jesus Christ — the good news (gospel means "good news") of the soon-coming Kingdom of God. This is followed by immersion in water (baptism), which is physical proof of your inward faith in Jesus Christ.
On the Road to Salvation
Upon baptism, you officially begin the way toward salvation. In accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior, you come under unmerited grace. Your previous record of sins is forgiven — your past sins are totally covered by the blood of Christ's sacrifice (Heb. 9:12,14), forgotten forever. Upon receipt of God's promised Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38, Rom. 8:9), you become an heir (not yet an inheritor) of the Kingdom of God. You are now a begotten son or daughter of God. But have the Ten Commandments lost their power to guide? No. You are saved from past sins by grace (Eph. 2:8) — something you cannot yourself earn. But you must now, in a repentant state of mind, begin to keep all the commandments, lest you again come under the death penalty! Notice: "Being justified [that is, forgiven of past sins] freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God, hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past..." (Rom 3:24-25). You cannot earn forgiveness. That comes from grace — free, unmerited pardon — from God. Grace covers your past sins (Rom. 3:25). You are justified by faith (Rom. 3:28). But the law that defines sin — that makes plain right from wrong — retains its power of life and death over you! Consider: "Do we then make void the law through faith? GOD FORBID: yea, we establish [Greek: continue] the law" (Rom. 3:31). The law defines sin. It cannot forgive sins. Only Christ can do that. But once you are forgiven sin — forgiven your having broken the law — now you are expected to quit sin, to begin to keep the law. "For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified" (Rom. 2:31). So now it all fits into place. After we have been converted and accepted Christ's sacrifice, our past sins are forgiven and we are no longer cut off from God (Rom. 5:10). Receiving His Holy Spirit, our minds are renewed and we begin to become more like Him (Eph. 4:23), imbued with the spirit of love, joy, patience, peace of mind. Yet, as human beings struggling
Why don't we, have universal happiness... Why are we unable to practice the apostle Paul's advice to do everything out of love?"
to overcome ourselves, the world around us and Satan, we occasionally stumble and break God's law. As we see the sin in us (Jas. 1:23-25), we are to immediately repent and ask that Christ's sacrifice be applied to us. We are to change on the point we transgressed and, instead, become more like God. Upon repentance and prayer for forgiveness (Matt. 6:12), our sins are forgiven (remember, grace is no license to freely break God's law: Rom. 6:15). We continue to "grow in grace,. and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (II Pet. 3:18). In this sense, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul" (Psa. 19:7). The Hebrew for law is torah. The sense of this word is instruction. Therefore, by keeping the law of God, we are accordingly instructed ' in the way that leads to life!'
So as a bona fide Christian keeping God's law, you grow in spiritual maturity. Amazingly, this is not of your own strength alone, but Jesus Christ living in you through the Holy Spirit — imbuing you with power to fulfill His law. As the apostle Paul aptly stated, "I am crucified with Christ [that is, in baptism]: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). As you grow by following the holy and spiritual law (Rom. 7:12,14), your hostile nature is gradually replaced by the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5). You find yourself filled with divine love — concerned about your fellowman, wanting the best for others, striving to serve, filled with proper humility. It doesn't happen all at once. We find that "God's love has been poured into our hearts [attitudes, minds] through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Rom. 5:5, RSV). It is a life-long process. And this love that comes from God matches perfectly with God's law of love, for "love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:10). Thus, moving from a carnal beginning to a converted goal, we see that "Christ is the end [goal] of the law" (Rom. 10:4). He already has set the pattern for us to live. He lived without sin. He kept God's law perfectly. And Christ in us can do the same. The Ten Commandments guide us to the very righteousness of God that is in Jesus Christ (Psa. 119:172). If you'd like more information on the application of the "perfect law of liberty" and the real Christian life, read our free booklets The Ten Commandments and Just What Do You Mean...Conversion? After reading them, you will understand and join with David — a man after God's own heart — when he said, "O how I love thy law! it is my meditation all — the day" (Psa. 119:97).