1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)
I remember a long time before I met Ben, I had conversations with a few other young men to see if it was a good idea to get to know each other better. I was pretty serious how I approached those conversations. I believed there were a lot of surface things it wasn't worth getting bent out of shape about and I wasn't even looking for our views to exactly match up. I was looking for a very specific kind of man to marry: one who wasn't interested in loopholes.
Yeah, that's a pretty enigmatic statement. Let me explain.
It seems like there are two different kinds of people in the world: ones who want to absorb and implement ideas and ones who just like to do what they have to in order to get by. Anyone who's ever taken a written exam has faced this. There are the people who want to know the material and view the test as a way of examining their knowledge to see if they've grasped it. Then there are the people who constantly ask, "Is this on The Test? Do we need to know this for The Test?"
These attitudes carry through to life. I believe they are the two basic ways people approach living a good life.
I wanted to marry someone interested in Good. I really, really wanted to. In fact, it was my primary "list" item when it came to marriage. What I found in my various conversations was very discouraging, however. Even seemingly sincere Christian young men were not interested in what God wanted: they were interested in what they had to or didn't have to do in order to get into Heaven.
That was it. Heaven was the end goal and everything was about whether or not you could get excluded from Heaven if you did this or that while you were alive.
Everything was being viewed through the lens of whether it was an actual "sin" to do or not do...and since our salvation or promise of Heaven is something granted, not earned, every time I brought up some idea or thought I was told, "Well, that's not necessary for salvation. See, Paul says here and here and here that it's actually sinning for us to do anything like that because we would be trying to EARN salvation!"
But I wasn't talking about salvation. I was wondering whether they wanted to go an extra mile out of eagerness for God or whether they just wanted to pass the test and get rewarded.
The response of, "Oh, that's not necessary for us to do" was discouraging because I was trying to picture being married to someone who didn't care about doing things to make me happy either. They could just as easily say, "Well, you swore a vow until death do us part regardless of what I do, so this is what we're doing and you just need to be a good wife and follow my decisions." (One young man told me point-blank that it was my job to be a wife and submit and not hold onto my own dogmatic views so it didn't matter that we had a difference of opinion. I ran the other direction as fast as possible.)
Life - especially life when you believe in God - is not supposed to be about the loopholes. It's not supposed to be about whatever you can get away with and still be considered "okay". We're given lifetimes to do something with them and according to the great men and women of faith who were spoken about and who wrote the Bible under the influence of God's Spirit, the thing we're supposed to do is not sit back and say, "Well, we've fulfilled the minimum requirement...guess we're good now!"
We're in a race, running a marathon, and we're supposed to be loving God with ALL our hearts, souls and might.
The writer of the book of Hebrews - often thought to be Paul, though it was written to Hebrew people and therefore reasons quite a bit differently than the letters Paul wrote to newly-converted pagans - put it this way: "Even if it's not an actual sin, cast off everything that hinders you in being just like Jesus!"
Lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely.
That's a pretty broad statement. It doesn't leave room for loopholes. It means there is no easy list of sins you can just tally up and avoid. It means everyone has to be keeping a sharp eye on their own hearts and minds to understand what's hindering them in doing what God wants. It means that one person might be able to play Tetris in their spare time but someone else has to avoid it completely because they get so distracted playing Tetris they don't pay attention to what their small children are doing.
It means if there's a suggestion that God is pleased by something, someone interested in casting off everything that hinders rather than just fitting through the loopholes will immediately be interested and sincerely investigate. It means perhaps doing or not doing things that seem to have no bearing on whether a person has been saved or not. It means asking "Is this good?" rather than "Do we gotta?"
And this thought process is what has led Ben and I to the conclusion that ALL of God's Law is still valid. It is all still good. It is not done away with. It was not an evil thing God saddled us with that we have a loophole into avoiding but rather a good thing we have every opportunity to be blessed by.
Because in the end...I found a man who wasn't interested in loopholes. He was and is interested in good. That is why I am now doing things I never even thought "applied" to me, such as celebrating God's special days. Because we asked the question "Is it good?" and were willing to cast off anything that hindered - including our preconceived notions of who we are and what God wants from us.
So there you have it. We are camping out in October in our temporary dwelling because God said he wants us to do it and we believe him. And it is very good.
10/16/2014 06:34:32 am
I agree! and isn't that the attitude you want your children to have towards you as well? not bare-minimum obedience, but the extra mile just because they want to please you!
10/18/2014 03:35:11 am
Absolutely! And not just going the extra mile with their noses in the air saying, "See how good I am, Mom?" but doing it saying, "Boy, I love you Mom!"
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Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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