Sjolander Road Fellowship




Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

commandments and admonitions

8/17/13

 

Matthew 11:28-30 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden , and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  

 

I John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

 

In light of verses like these from the NT I have to ask why the church wants to bind so many commandments on people, requirements which few would call light. In fact, one might go further and ask why the message of Jesus is supposed to be about complying with legal requirements, just like the measure of a man under Judaism was obedience to the Law. Is Jesus no more than Moses revisited. Paul certainly recognized and admitted the unbearable yoke of OT Judaism (Acts 15:10). Attempting to apply a new set of laws as the better way of Christ is simply incompatible with all these verses. Something is amiss in our theology.

 

Every tenet of Orthodoxy's doctrinal creed carries an implied responsibility to accept and respond under penalty of eternal damnation. According to their interpretation, reasonableness, logic, ethical considerations, none of these matter in evaluating the requirements. All must be accepted by faith, ostensibly faith in God, but, in actuality, faith in the church's interpretation of God. Salvation, eternal life, freedom from sin, relationship with God, everything depends on obedience to commandments according to the church. All is contingent on personal commitment, dedication, and performance. Right standing with God requires willful effort from every supplicant. God demands and man complies, no matter how difficult or unappealing.

 

Some, who have been raised under the tutelage of this teaching, may deny that they feel burdened by it; but things like the evident lack of enthusiasm for Bible study and personal evangelism, declining church attendance, and the on-going call for modification to church liturgy fully demonstrate the dissatisfaction felt by many. The younger members, in particular, constantly insist on a church experience which has relevance to everyday life, instead of obsessing about the hereafter. They seek life principles, not demanding rules which supposedly bestow divine favor in the afterlife.

 

I think it is appropriate to re-consider what is meant by commandments in the NT. It is specially significant to note that the Greek word that translates commandment in the KJV can mean a standard or principle instead of a law or legal rule. Seeing it that way changes the entire complexion of these verses. If we consider Jesus  to be admonishing instead of commanding, obedience is no longer an appropriate response. An admonition is defined as cautionary advice or a mild reproof. We are not called to obey but to pay attention, to re-consider. Now a disregarded admonition may well carry negative consequences, and I certain believe that this is the case with Jesus, but the consequences are not the result of an outside enforcer or judge.

 

Admittedly, even if we consider the words of Jesus not as legal requirements but as life principles, they still appear quite challenging. I guess I tend to see this as a relative thing. Life in general is a challenge, and I suspect that is by design and not by accident. The "commandments" of Jesus don't eliminate the challenge of living, they just make them immensely more tolerable. I doubt many would say the same of the legal requirements promoted by the church.

 

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