Law: A More Excellent Way

If civil law is simply a social contract, then it rests on a foundation no firmer than desire. If ethics spring forth from the human heart, what then of the higher things – or indeed, how do we recognize the higher as distinct from the base? For my desire to steal I merely enshrine in law, and it becomes ethical: a virtue. I posit that some people are not really people; killing them is no different than butchering a hog. Again, I look in the mirror and see an ethical man, for my desire – become law – tells me what it means to be good. But what, then, of honor? What of duty? What of self-sacrificing love? What place have these things?

No, my friends. We must categorically reject the thinking of this age. There is transcendent truth, and it is real. We recognize love, and honor, and duty. When their stories are told, our spirits soar. We rejoice. And we cannot resist them, for indeed, desire does not define virtue. Virtue is written on the human heart, by One far greater than us. We can seek to understand this. We can embark on the greatest journey of our lives. The alternative is to be caught up by our own desires, slaves to their fickle whims, never satisfied, endlessly manipulating each other. There is no heavier burden for men to bear than that of their own desire.

Yet take heart, for all is not lost. There is a glorious, transcendent, and firm foundation upon which to build. And it is never too late to place upon it the first stone of a more excellent way.

Getting the Words Right (Anger)

Words – even at this late stage in the long defeat of the West – mean something.  And something that helps us to get a Biblical perspective on things is to get the words right.  Using the proper word for what we’re experiencing allows us to quickly identify the problem.  We’re good lawyers in our own defense, though, and often we know that we’re sinning, so we’ll hide behind a wall of vague words that obscure what’s really going on in our hearts.

Offended, frustrated, annoyed, put out, upset, irritated, enraged…

No, you’re not.  What you are is called angry, and from here you can handle it righteously or sinfully.  In righteousness you’ll respond either justly or graciously, depending on the circumstance and your role in the relationship.  If you have some role of authority in regards to the offender (ie, a policeman or parent) you’ll need to consider the just response.  A lack of accountability is not gracious, but that’s a different blog post.  If the offender is your authoritative equal – say, a fellow member or attender of your church – you’ll need to respond graciously.  You’re even allowed to overlook the offense altogether, sacrificing your right to be angry to the Lord – true story!  Responding in sin leads to, say, posting on Facebook about how offended you are [that is, angry] and how terrible the offender is.  Or constantly thinking about how you’ve been wronged.  You might really be a detail person. But we tend to be very detailed people when it comes to those who’ve offended us.

Anger, handled unrighteously and given time to fester, grows into bitterness.  The offender doesn’t “rub you the wrong way,” or “irritate” you.  They don’t make you angry, either.  The anger comes from in you and nowhere else.  You’re bitter, and at this point your sin has become the problem you need to deal with immediately.  Biblically, you do this by forgiving the offender and confessing your bitterness as sin before the Lord.  You are going to spend the rest of your life on earth bumping into other sinners, and sometimes it will feel like everyone is in a race to sin against others faster than they can get sinned against.  You need a plan to deal with this: know your heart, your tendencies toward anger and bitterness, and be ready to confess.  Constantly.

I know I barely scratched the surface here of our various euphemisms for anger and bitterness, so feel free to post yours in the comments.  One thing about all our euphemisms a good friend pointed out to me… you won’t find any of them in Galatians 5 where the fruit of the Spirit are listed.  Something to think about.

*edit* Here’s a great booklet by a pastor named Jim Wilson (along with a couple others) on anger and bitterness.  These are sins worthy of our attention, so common are they in our lives and our culture.

Next time on Getting the Words Right, we’ll tackle tolerance.

Kingdom Building

Christian ethics is no less than the human expression, made possible through the Holy Spirit, of the Divine character.  The foundation of our obedience to the will of God is the atoning death of Christ at Calvary.   The only proper and grateful response to what He has done for us is dedicating our lives to that which brings Him glory: this is our highest ethic.

A person outside of God’s saving grace has some inkling of God’s righteous justice.  Or rather something more than an inkling, as Paul lays out in the very beginning of his letter to the Romans: that person knows, and rejects the truth he knows for the lies his or her sinful heart prefers.  This is a harsh judgment to make, but a critical, Biblical one: and we must make it upon our own hearts first and foremost.  We all begin under a just sentence of condemnation for our rebellion.  In our flesh, we do not want to obey.  We don’t even want to acknowledge the existence of a law by which we can be judged disobedient.

But in His grace!  A glorious place to reside, and from this glory comes ethical order.  Our souls having been quickened by the Spirit, having responded to the Gospel of grace with joyful, repentant sorrow, are ready for something more: the work of building Christ’s kingdom, in His name, and upon His earth.  The truth of justice has devastated our souls, and truth of grace has built them back up again in His image.  Truth – we elate! – is knowable.  Both God’s justice in judgment and gracious salvation of sinners express His character; and having been justified, in the process of being sanctified, we begin to glimpse the beauty of His law as David did.  To know God is to know truth.  To love God is to love truth.

We live in an age where, without a trace of irony, the only truth we seem to embrace is that there is no truth.  In our culture we base ethics upon desire; that which the people want, the people should have.  This has the ultimate effect of destroying us.  It is shifting sand, and trying to build an ordered society upon a foundation readily susceptible to the tides of human opinion leads to moments of success followed by lifetimes of regret.

But building a well-ordered society that truly meets human need is possible: and more than possible, inevitable.   The ultimate triumph of good over evil is coming. And we, my Christian brothers and sisters, have been called to prepare the earth.  For all will bend the knee to Him.  His sovereignty is universal and will be recognized as such by all men, everywhere.  In justice or in grace, all will give Him glory.

What is your role in building His kingdom?