James A. Washington

Have you ever wondered how the lawyer feels, who knows his or her client is guilty? But that lawyer is able to get the person off based on a legal technicality. Legally, the person is innocent, but morally they are as guilty as sin.

This must have been one of the most important issues being debated by the traditional Jew of Christ’s times and the radicals who chose to follow Him. It seems to have been the focal point of what got Christ killed and indeed the focal point of many a debate today.

What Jesus was trying to get the Pharisees and the Sadducees to understand was that the will of God was more important than the play-it-by-the-book interpretation of the Law of Moses. They were apparently more interested in being right than being moral.

“Thus you nullify the Word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’” Matthew 15:6-9.

Over and over again throughout the New Testament, Christ lets us know He is the fulfillment of the Law. He is the embodiment of God’s Word. He is the point, not the rule. The point of the law, any law, is to protect the innocent, punish the guilty and thereby preserve the social and political order of man. Technicality or not, the law was never intended to let a murderer go free.

The point of God’s Word is that Jesus indeed is His Son, raised from the dead, who died for our original sin and through whom we obtain everlasting life. Out of love and compassion for our fellow man, out of service in His name, out of honoring Him, will we also fulfill our purpose here on earth? Law or no law, the Word of God was never intended to punish the pure of heart when acting on behalf of the Almighty.

So Jesus was constantly at odds with religious scholars of His day about the literal interpretation of scripture (the Law of Moses) versus daily activity in the service of the Lord. Hence, His parables were constantly illustrating to those who would listen that, yes, you might be right, but according to the Will of God, what’s your point?

Do you know people who just have to be right all the time? Regardless of the situation or the circumstances, their need to be right and have you acknowledge their rightness supersedes all logic, common sense and purpose. Can’t you just hear Jesus imploring the traditionalists with, “Okay, already! Technically, you’re right. I shouldn’t be healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, feeding the hungry or teaching the gospel on the Sabbath. But what are you arguing about? I’m merely doing my Daddy’s will. It seems you’re more interested in being right than in bringing the righteous closer to God. So what you gonna do; crucify me?”

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is just like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-40. It sounds simple enough. But watch your back if you choose to live by this principle. Yes, play by the rules. But don’t ever forget the point.

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