Law • Devotion 2

Laws or Guidelines?
Mark Pittenger

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You are only breaking the law if you get caught?” I hear this all the time and see it practiced every day. This is probably most evident on the highway. When I am on my way to work in the morning, I often feel like I am driving in a NASCAR race! If you choose to follow the speed limit, cars will fly past you like you are parked! This reminds me of a scene from the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean” when Elizabeth calls out Captain Barbossa for breaking the pirate’s code. He then replies, “The code is more so guidelines than it is rules.”

However, in Matthew 5:17-20, we see Jesus say, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Much like “the church culture” today, the Pharisees were very good at telling others what the Law said and pointing out how the people were breaking it; all the while not living righteously themselves. We can see this later in Matthew 23:27-28 (NIV) when Jesus says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

Too often we hear Christians say, “I can live how I want because Jesus will forgive me.” However, we can see clearly that Jesus is saying otherwise. We should not just know and teach the laws and commandments, but live in a way that is an example of them. Jesus came not only as the sacrifice for the sins of all humanity but also as an example of how we should live. Our lives should be a reflection of Jesus’ love, forgiveness, and righteousness, with the understanding that we are not perfect but have the promise of one day reaching that perfection when we stand in His glory!

So, are you living, to the best of your ability, according to the laws, or like the pirates, do you look at them more as guidelines? I challenge you to follow the example left to us by Jesus.

“Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” 1 John 2:6

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