And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”
Yesterday the issue of being careful before throwing out traditions and structures, particularly referring to the church, was dealt with in part 1 (click here to read). To recap, the final illustration is helpful:
GK Chesterton said that before you start tearing down any fence, it’s always a good idea to find out why it was put up to begin with. The obvious imagery could easily be extended to the large open spaces throughout the east that are surrounded by three lines of barbed wire attached to wooden posts. Often there is nothing to look at as far as the eye can see. As we look at that open, lonely grassland it would be easy to see the fence as useless, or a hindrance to the “natural beauty” of the landscape. But the truth of the situation is this, if one solitary bull was being forced to consider to make a run at us as we glibly waxed philosophical, and that fence was the only opposing side in the argument, we would begin to realize just how much sense the fence makes.
Jesus, by His own admission, did not come to abolish the law. By implication, He didn’t come to make sure that we all worship in flighty and ethereal ways. He came to fulfill the law. He came to keep all of the rules of God so His death could be a perfect substitution for our disobedient lives. To demonize gathered worship services, or liturgical prayers, or a certain methodological bent toward particular style, feel, or mechanics is just as foolish as saying that those things will save a person. We utilize traditions, both old and new, as signposts and reference points. We worship the way that we do, in part, because we’ve done it that way for quite some time, and we are more efficient people when we have at least some measure of scaffolding in our lives. And like Chesterton’s quote implies, we are actually safeguarded from certain errors, mistakes, and practices that historically have been problematic for Christians when we accept certain ways of the church. (This is obviously not to say that the church is always right in its methods or motivations, but it is working off of long history of experience and in time the expression of gathered worship will change to more accurately reflect the life of the cultural that it dwells in – this is not compromise, it is contextualization…the former is foolish and dangerous, the latter is irreplaceably necessary)
Ultimately, structure is a good thing. But structure will always be the submissive party in a relationship with God. In the verses preceding Jesus’ instruction to follow the Temple ritual, we see Jesus Himself in a proximity with this leper that would make Him ceremonially unclean, and therefore implicate Him in a religious “no-no”. But the structure of the Law was not more powerful than Jesus’ authority over leprosy, and so the structure of the Law submitted to the Spirit of Christ as He poured out His compassion upon the sick and dying.
May our structure be a tool that gives us opportunity to serve, grow, and worship. But may our spirit’s be led by God’s Spirit wherever that may be, and in whatever unorthodox ways might be required.