Monday, September 22, 2014

How to Read the Law

How do you read the Law?  When you look at the Law, are you looking for good advice?  For the list of things that God wants you to do so that if you do these you know that they are okay?  Well - that's one way... the Pharasaical way of reading the Law.  It has a long history and is always popular with the Old Adam -- it makes the law doable and keeps it some what safe.

But that's not how we as Lutherans have been taught to read the Law.  This goes back to Confirmation Lesson number 1:

What is the first commandment?
You shall have no other gods.

What does this mean?
We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

Have you thought on the implications of the "what does this mean" actually entails?  That pattern of "we should fear and love God..." plays out through the rest of the commandments - and this is something that ought to consider.  It is Luther teaching us how to read the Law.  When we come across a simple command (or even statement of truth), our first thought should not be whether or not we *do* it, but rather... what things do we fear that would hinder us from this?  What things do we have a twisted "love" for that would lead us away from this?  What do we put our "trust" in rather than God and His love and mercy for us?

This is what Luther does the rest of the commandments.  They are all viewed not through a lens of "how do I accomplish this" or "why is this a good" or "what is the virtue here" - but rather fear and love.  What fears, what false loves pull me away from what God has created me to be.

The assumption for Luther is not that if we study the Law enough we will obtain virtue.  The assumption for Luther is not to see whether or not we will improve in our living.  The assumption for Luther is not that if we just exercise enough discipline we will overcome these base struggles.

No, the assumption for Luther is that Satan will always be attacking you - attacking you with twisted fear and with a twisted love that seek to distract you from God.  Always.  That's not something you no longer ponder once you have mastered virtue; that's not something you out grow; that's not something you beat out of yourself (because Luther tried).  That is the struggle you face until Christ Himself rescues you from this vale of tears, from this body of death.

How do you read the Law?  You read it remembering that it shows you what you'd rather fear, or love, or trust in rather than.

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