Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Offense of Defense

Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. -- Psalm 119:66

Rules, regulations, laws, what’s the difference?   They are very much the same.  We talk about the rules of the road.  A person doesn’t necessarily get a ticket or suffer an immediate consequence for, say, not letting someone merge or for not signaling a lane change, but these are actions that smooth the flow of traffic and make sense when we think about other drivers on the road.  On the other hand, the laws of physics are a mathematical description of the way the material universe works.  There is not a lot of room for creative interpretation -- fall down, go boom, most of the time.

Sometimes we are inclined to look at God’s law as being more rules of etiquette, things we do if we want to be considered decent, civilized human beings.  It’s more like we got the idea of civilization from God’s law.  Good judgment, being polite, considering the consequences of one’s actions with regard to one’s neighbor, avoiding offense, these arise from the understanding and practice of the spiritual law.  If we flaunt the law of God, openly or covertly, we inevitably reap a harvest of consequences in our souls.  The warping of the soul leads to outward manifestations.  As the psalmist says in the next verse:  Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.

Sometimes it is difficult for us to recognize the correlation between what happens in our physical environment and the laws we have transgressed.  It’s clear that many people appear to get away with blatantly and openly trampling upon God’s precepts while some of the rest of us seem to suffer if we so much as look at the law sideways.  This is a subject I touch upon frequently.  A person may be disobedient in one area but adhere to the law strictly in another.   Paul speaks of those who having no knowledge or particular regard for the written law of Moses still often do what is right:  For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.

As humans made in the image and likeness of God, we have great creative powers and potential.  We may cut ourselves off from that spiritual power, living fleshly, animalistic lives.  We have that option, and more and more of us seem to be exercising it.  We become as stupid and instinctive as the lower creatures.  We may be undisciplined or disciplined, the results made plain in our physical bodies. 

But even if we become Christians, our violations of the law create what we might think of as lesions in our souls.  We’ve talked about strongholds in the past, and this is where those fortresses begin.  One theory about plaque build-up in the vascular system says that cholesterol is deposited in the arteries as a means of repairing vessels weakened by inflammation – often said to be related to a diet high in sugar.  In the same way, we build defensive structures -- rationalizations, projections, denials, compulsion, addictions, etc. – as a means of protecting tender, weak, wounded areas in our psyches.  So long as the wound remains, though we tear down the fortress walls, something will arise to protect it. 

The only way to be free of strongholds is to be healed of wounds, to be made whole.  Jesus can do that for us.  It is a matter of trust, honesty, and an understanding of how the Lord identified with us that we might identify fully with Him.   We may go on living selfish lives, or we may access the power of God in obedience to live holy lives.  The first step is to drop all efforts of self-justification.  

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