Friday, September 26, 2014

The Burden of the Law

I was reading the blog post Unburdened about how hard it can feel to keep god’s commands. And I was struck by this statement: “the commandments are indeed burdensome, that burden has been laid on the shoulders of [Jesus]. … That same weight that threatens to break our backs actually did crush our savior.” not because I agree with it but because I think it indicates a fundamental mis-understand of the law and our relation to it.
By Pavel Ryčl (,
 via Wikimedia Commons
          I don’t think Jesus felt the law as a crushing burden during His ministry here on earth. I think he felt more the challenge of a supreme athlete performing at the height of His powers. Perhaps like a gymnast performing a world class routine that was supremely choreographed to perfectly fit his talents and style. It was a task that demanded strength, balance, focus and effort. But it was also a task that created joy and exhilaration not heaviness and distaste.
         I remember when I was 20, slim and health. Lost in my own imagination, thoughts of exciting adventure would spur me to run, and I would feel the joy of exertion and skillful balance and the a speed that could make still air a breeze. Now that I’m forty and fat, running doesn’t feel the same at all. It’s something I do out of duty rather than desire. It’s something that feels awkward and unnatural, something that quickly becomes tiring and painful, something that can remind me how un-fun a bit of asthma is. The requirements of running haven't changed, my body has. It’s no longer fit for running. But I’d like to keep running to get at least a little of that fitness back. If I’m dedicated I might be able to lose some of the weight. But I’ll never have body I had at 20 again. No amount of exercise will actually reverse the wear and tear of time.
          Without salvation our efforts to follow the law are like me trying to make myself 20 again by discipline and effort. I might get back to that weight, I might put on more mussel than I had then, I might develop more skill in some athletic discipline. But I’ll need actually roll back the years by working out harder. In the same way following the law in our own strength without the redeeming work of the cross is futile. We might manage to look better to other humans, we might manage conform better to certain outward forms, but we would never get back to that pristine innocence
          And this is what Jesus meant by his burden being light. Choosing to follow Him doesn’t change God’s commandments or the requirements of holiness. It changes how we relate to it and where we will end up in relation to it. Redemption changes our struggle with sin from one that is like growing older where we inevitably lose ground feats athleticism sooner or later, to one that is like growing up, where we naturally gain strength and coordination over time and where the destined result is a coordinated and stable adult body.
        The promise of the Father, the life of the Son, and the seal of the Holy Spirit are out guaranty that no matter what awkward and gangly stages we go through here in this life, in the world to come Jesus will bring his work to completion and we will display full maturity there. Jesus assumes the consequences of all the bumps and scrapes, all the wear and tear, all the mistakes, so that even if we spend our time here in the moral equivalent of curling out on the couch and eating ice-cream, never learning how to throw a ball or ride a bike, He will still present us fit for his Father’s presence.
And that was what was as a crushing burden, bearing all our sins on the cross. This was an unimaginable weight, which was born only through God’s infinite strength. Jesus took all our awful decisions, our rebellious stunts, our misunderstandings and ingrained bad habits to the cross. He felt the impact of all those deforming shapers of character and still He submitted his spirit into the hands of a Father who He could no longer feel. He was buried under the consequences of all our unholiness and rejection of God’s law.
So we don’t have our bad choices deforming our character anymore. While we are still in this world we still feel their ghost in the scares and dents they have left on or bodies and brains. We are still sense the reverberations from the God dishonoring actions of other humans. We don’t have the spiritual body that can perform the perfect and glorious dance of praise to our King that is obedience. But we can practice the steps in the sure knowledge that one day we will be conformed you our resent Lord and therefore be able to join in that performance of perfect beauty and grace.

No comments:

Post a Comment