"For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it."
I used to read this passage and feel all sorts of condemnation (which, by the way, Romans 8:1 expressly tells us isn't coming from God). The logic runs like this:
A) The goal of the Christian is to "live the Christian Life"
B) The Christian Life consists of me gaining The Victory (caps intentional) over sin
C) If I live the Christian Life long enough, I should be able to "get it right".
Now, when it comes to point C, most of us (except those extreme Arminians who believe in a doctrine of total sanctification [big word, Glory Hallelujah, can I get an Amen-ah]) would at least give lip service to the idea that we will never get it ALL right. But we really have been trained to "grade" ourselves -- and others -- when it comes to sin and righteousness. The worst of it all is that we play this little evangelical game with ourselves. The truly sanctified among us give ourselves a B+ and think that's good enough. Others of us smite our breasts, give ourselves a C-, and continue to do whatever is making us feel mildly guilty. Still others of us never really can seem to deal with the whole standard of performance thing, don't even try, shrug our shoulders and claim God's grace as the way we're going to "graduate" even though we got an F.
I am a self-conscious lover. In all realms of love from platonic to sexual I am acutely aware of what I'm doing at every turn and grade myself on every interaction. I have spent more time discussing love (with myself and others) in all its aspects and whether I did it right than I ever have actually loving anyone. I'm also very hard on those who profess to love ME. I first noticed this with my father. For years I used to say we didn't have a very good relationship because he didn't know how to love me the way I needed to be loved. The truth is I simply wouldn't LET him love me the way he knew how. I kept giving him a D- in the love department.
Are there things that are right and things that are wrong? Yep. Has God told us most of them or given us the ability to discern what they are? Yep. Then if that standard exists, why isn't it wisdom to apply it? Because of this verse. I might, just possibly, be a "pharisee of pharisees" and DO the whole law in every point. But the minute I become a self-conscious lover and start my critique of how well I and everyone around me performed, I stand condemned.
How about a better way? What would happen if I really, wholistically apply the Shema Israel and just love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and let him tell me in His wisdom when I've sinned, not so I can get a better grade but so I can love him more fully? I suppose I'd have to stop grading everyone else too (not much fun in that), but I'd be at peace with God and probably at a greater peace with my neighbor and all my other loves than I've ever been.
Pastoral Relief and Retreat
- Wethersfield, CT, United States
- I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.