Intensified Law, Sin Boldly

Our gospel is a continued except from Jesus’ infamous ‘Sermon on the Mount’.

Within the scripture,…

But Jesus’ tone has shifted.
Jesus denounces the rumor that he came to ‘abolish’ the law.

The Torah, teaching, is the first 5 Books in the Hebrew Bible (and Old Testament).
The Torah includes the Ten Commandments and the remaining legal code.

Who enjoys the law? Depends on the situation. 

According to Martin Luther and our Lutheran tradition, the legal code serves three purposes:

  1. Civil Law and Order
    It is a guideline for healthy interaction with God and neighbor while maintaining good order (and boundaries). In essence the legal code restrains us, especially from killing one another, due to the consequences. Honestly, in the words of Brandy Clarks’ Strips “the crime of passion aint worth the crime of fashion” (lol).
  2. A Mirror Reflecting Our Short-Comings
    Who enjoys seeing themselves in the mirror in the morning, without hair and make up done? NO ONE. The legal code is that mirror, which reflects to us the sins, failures, and short-comings we are reluctant to recognize and acknowledge.
  3. Points us to Christ
    Although the third use of the law is debated, after looking into the mirror, it points us to our need for God’s love, mercy, and grace through Jesus the Christ.

Jesus did not abolish the legal code, but intensified it while rebelling against the non-essentials. For example, he did not ensure the disciples washed before eating.

The legal code is precious and holy, therefore it cannot be trespassed against.
Thus, the religious authorities throughout the centuries continued to build a multi-layered security system around the it’s perimeter in order to safe-guard it against trespassing.

For example: 
The legal code states to not eat a calf boiled in the milk of it’s mother.

Thus, do not eat the meat of a calf with the milk of it’s mother.
Thus, do not eat beef and dairy in the same meal.

Stricter Jewish practitioners with the means, may also not store beef and dairy in the same refrigerator AND have separate dishes, silverware, and cookware for beef and dairy.

These are additional security measures to ensure no contamination and prevent trespassing the legal code.

Although the legal code seeks to maintain good order (and healthy boundaries), the security measures can have a negative influence on our relationship with God and neighbor.

God expects us to seek justice, to act with compassion and mercy, while loving and serving as we commit to in our baptismal waters. BUT, what happens when this vocation requires potentially breaching that security system?

For example, the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

The religious elite were terrifed to reach out to their neighbor on the side of the road, because it would require reaching through the established security system around the legal code and risking exposure to sin and impurity. Thus, they left their neighbor to die on the side of the road. 

The Good Samaritan, who was deemed unclean by the religious elite, risked contamination of sin and impurity, in order to act with justice, compassion, mercy, and love while serving their vulnerable neighbor. 

Jesus may have seemingly rebelled against the security measures (and non-essentials) of the legal code, primarily the ‘purity code’, while calling humanity into a higher standard rooted not in the black-and-white letter of the law, but it’s spirit and intention. (see Jesus: Rebellious, Refining Light).

So “Do Not Murder” becomes do not be angry, be in conflict, or have ill thoughts.
Thus, do no harm physically, mentally/emotionally, spiritually, etc.
Thus, do not utter the prays I do during NASCAR… “I wish {insert name} will wreck”. 

So “Do Not Commit Adultery” becomes do not look with lust, fantasy, or engage in a relationship outside of marriage AND do not marry a divorced person.

Interestingly, at Jesus’ time, only women could commit adultery.
Sorry Ladies! Men, you are apparently off the hook. 
Yet, Jesus’ intensifying/expanding of ‘adultery’ also holds men accountable.

Martin Luther, whose commemoration day is Tuesday (Feb. 18), understood Jesus’ intensifying of the legal code (particularly the Ten Commandments) holding us accountable to God and neighbor. He reminded us of our need for God’s love, mercy, and grace, as well as pointing us towards repentance and reconciliation through Christ.

Luther wrote in a letter to Philip Melanchthon, his right-hand man:

If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness, but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly – you too are a mighty sinner.

“To Philip Melanchthon, Wartburg, August 1, 1521”
(Luther’s Works, vol. 48; p. 281-2)

We all commit murder and adultry a thousand, perhaps a million times a day.

BUT, may we breach that security system, sinning boldly (or bravely),
not for self-indulgence, but for the sake of God and neighbor.

Sin Boldly. Believe Boldly. Pray Boldly.

Scriptures were Sirach 15:15-20; Psalm 119:1-8; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37).
Originally preached 16 February 2020 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).


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