When making the rules means missing the point!

During my theological training in Cambridge I had the pleasure of attending several lectures by Dr Edward Kessler of The Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations. Central to much of his teaching was a passion to help Christians understand the Jewish world of both the Old and New Testaments.
He detailed how Jewish thought placed wider teaching around the central idea of loving God in order to help adherents to remain faithful. You will see this depicted in the diagram below. Given that the central teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures is that we should love God there is a need to place a set of laws, the Ten Commandments, around this to ensure that we remain faithful to the instruction to love God.
Our need for certainty doesn't stop there are we look to build a further fence around these laws in order to ensure we do not risk failure. These are known as the Mitzvah which represent the other 613 laws detailed in the Old Testament.
In order to ensure adherence to the Mitzvah another fence is added called the Halakha. This literally means walk and contains instruction on he the laws might be lived out.
All of the above is informed by commentary writings known as Midrash.
So we see how each fence, aimed at ensuring obedience to the central instruction, removes us further away. In the end it becomes harder to see what the main point is and so our discussions become focused on the rules rather than on God.
At this point it might be easy to consider the pictures of the Pharisees in the New Testament. Before we paint them as necessarily having wrong motives we should pause for a moment. Could it be that that in their genuine search to remain faithful they created too many extra fences. We in the church seem to find it all to easy to fall into the same trap.
I read a blog recently reminding us of Wayne Grudem's attempt at providing 83 rules to help churches know when are where women are allowed to serve (link below).
As I read this list I was reminded of Dr Kessler's teaching about the Pharisees.
How does a church become so focussed on rules that, in producing 83, it fails to see the God who longs to liberate all without reference to gender.

To listen to my sermon on John 3:16 in which I explain some of the above, click on the link below:

1 comment:

alan1704 said...

Thought provoking.

I suppose that rules are easier to follow than Christ. How many sermons have you you heard which basically are formula's for putting people back under the law. People preach grace but mix it with law, and here is a formula - grace + law = law.

We are all equal In Christ, we are united into the Trinity, Male and Female have equal value. True equality is not in what laws are written, it is listening to others, appreciating contribution and showing grace.