Well, I know I picked a good one when the hubby is crying he is laughing so hard! Seriously, this one is super funny! And we all know that person, the one who can find a way around any rule! I distinctly remember my brother, and now my daughter, saying things like, “I’m not jumping on the couch, I’m hopping!” Brother O’Leary and my daughter would have gotten along fantastically!
On a more serious note, we, as children of God, can often do the same thing as Brother O’Leary. We follow the letter of the law (the physical action of obedience) and not the spirit of the law (the actual obedience with the right heart attitude). How often does the Bible warn us away from something and we attempt to find loopholes? How often do we know something is wrong, yet we find a way to technically do it?
A good example of this type of behavior is sex. Young people will do everything but the actual last step and claim they do not have sex. Married adults will go out with the other gender and become emotionally involved but not actually have sexual relations. All this to comply with the Bible where it says to not have extra-marital sex. However, the fact is, we all know what the spirit of this law is; it is to have fidelity with your spouse in all aspects. Following it to the letter is not the same as following it in spirit.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”Matthew 5:27-28
Extreme behavior, like in addicts, also demonstrates this. However, we also do it in the little things. For instance, going 9 MPH over the speed limit because we know we only get pulled over at 10 MPH over. However, we know that we should be going the speed limit to the best of our ability. There are more: white lies, foul language, coarse jokes, unhealthy habits, and the list can go on.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”Matthew 5:21-26
It is not enough to follow the letter of the law. You must follow the spirit of the law. This is exactly what Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for, calling them hypocrites and vipers. They were routinely coming to Jesus trying to trap him in the loopholes of the law, but Jesus never fell for it. He accused them of being whitewashed tombs; made to look pretty on the outside, but inwardly rotting.
You see, Jesus wants us to be obedient out of love. Not out of obligation, but out of love. Obedience out of love strives to make the other person proud of them. That is achieved by being fully obedient to the intent of the instruction. My daughter is an example. Her obedience to the letter of the law is what prompted her to tell me that she was not jumping on the couch, she was hopping. Had she been obedient to the spirit of the law, she would have completely stopped and not parsed words.
Jesus calls us to righteous living. What does that mean? Merriam Webster defines it as “acting in accordance with divine or moral law; free from guilt or shame.” That’s the kind of life Jesus asks us to live. We don’t achieve that through our own power. We achieve it through his power. When we give our lives to him, his blood covers any of the times we mess up. Our focus is to be on him and following his statutes out of love. And what two commands did he give us? Love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbors as ourselves. The rest will follow.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.Ephesians 5:1-7
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them;
- Are there areas in your life where you are trying to find loopholes in God’s word?
- Confess those to God. Ask him to give you the courage to withstand the temptation.
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