I was reading the first few verses of Psalm 119 this morning and started thinking about the Christian's relationship to the Old Testament Law.
When I was working in youth ministry, our church ran an after-school youth basketball ministry on Wednesdays. It grew quite popular, and soon the "church" kids were outnumbered by the new kids. At the beginning of the school year, we seemed to have more discipline problems, partly because of typical boundary testing by teenagers, and partly because the relationship dynamics had shifted. There were so many kids we didn't know yet!
One year, things got out of hand the first couple of weeks of school so we decided to "lay down the law". We made a big sign to display in the gym with all the rules. No cussing. No disrespecting church property. No extended hugs or touching. We had about 10 or 12 rules. I'm embarrassed to say we even printed them in red letters.
I hated that sign, and I arranged for it to "disappear" within a few weeks. I didn't like the atmosphere it created. It's not that the rules were bad. But in a way, we were sending the message to the nonchristian kids with that sign that being Christian is based on performance and not on grace.
That's what happens when Christians try to keep the law. It's not that God's rules are bad. In fact, they're good. God didn't give them to us arbitrarily, they're for our own benefit. But because of our sin, attempting to follow the law can't get us to heaven or into the presence of God—only the blood of Jesus Christ can do that. But the cool thing is, when we receive Christ, we're under his blood and we're no longer slaves to following the law.
Does that mean we throw God's law out the window? Absolutely not! We couldn't if we wanted to! It's written on our hearts! But we're no longer bound by it. We don't have to worry anymore if we're good enough.
Back to the basketball ministry, the interesting thing was, each year as we developed relationships with those high school kids, we found we didn't need to hang up a sign with all the rules. For the most part, the kids did what was right, and the veteran kids helped coach the newer ones. We had problems from time to time, but we always tried to handle those issues with both firmness and grace.
Galatians 3:10-11 reads: "All those who rely on the works of the Law are under a curse, because it is written, 'Everyone is cursed who does not keep on doing all the things that have been written in the Law scroll.' But since no one is made righteous by the Law as far as God is concerned, it is clear that 'the righteous one will live on the basis of faith'." (CEB)
What's your take on Christians and the Law?