There has been quite a bit of talk about legislation over the last week. In reality there’s been quite a bit of talk about legislation for much longer than that, but the last week has seen a spike higher than the norm.
Because of this heightened awareness, I was a bit more sensitive to the words of David as I read Psalm 19 this morning. With the Supreme Court’s verdicts delivered for this session, and the conversations about the Confederate Flag and gun control that have hovered on the periphery of the Charleston church shooting, I was drawn in to these words:
The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
– Psalm 19:7-10
Hardly offended by these ideas, I found them to be comforting. In fact, I found this to be far more comforting than any verdict that any American court could hand down, whether I agree with the decision or not. The reason for this is simply because I trust God infinitely more than I trust the justices of the highest court in our land. I trust God’s character; I trust His wisdom; I trust His desires and direction for my life as well as for the lives of every human being who has ever lived; I trust His care for the world in which I live. I don’t know that I trust any justice, judge or lawyer to decide where I should have my pets groomed, much less profoundly important decisions about life and society.
David, in this psalm, was convinced that the laws, commands and rules of God were not restrictive but compassionate. He did not see the course correction that God’s precepts demanded as overbearing or tyrannical. He did not, it seems, look at God’s instructions as a list of things that he wanted to do but couldn’t. Instead he saw God’s law as a way of aligning himself with the best, richest and most joyful life that fallen man could experience. Certainly this was not a life without sorrow and hardship, but it was a life where joy and love and gladness were the context in which those difficulties happened. Or, put more simply: he believed emotional and spiritual valleys were intended to be the exception, not the norm, for the life that was lived in compliance with God’s instructions.
I understand that there are different ways of interpreting the Bible. One of the most humorous takes on this comes from a crooner of some notoriety:
Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the Bible says love your enemy.
– Frank Sinatra
And this post is not about interpretation or parsing out Greek expressions. But there are plenty of things which we all agree the Bible actually says to inspire a lifetime worth of pursuit and effort. I’m baffled by those who are hyper-consumed with trying to understand confusing Greek and Hebrew words while blithely passing over the ones that are remarkably clear and easy to understand.* Love God, your neighbor and your enemy: those three commands seem to have troublingly escaped both argument and daily practice. Or, how about, give generously: this is a profound instruction that is both clearly stated and, often, clearly ignored.
GK Chesterton said that Christianity’s problem is not that it doesn’t work when it is properly put into practice, he said that it has been found to be difficult and so it remains untried because of the effort it requires. I’m fairly convinced that if we, as Christians, will be diligent to actually follow the commands of God that are the most clearly stated, we will find that the conversations and positions we take on those things that are not as clear might be given a lot more validity and consideration.
* I do believe that seeking to understand the harder and more nuanced texts is of great importance. My point here is merely to say that there is not either/or. Becoming consumed with the tricky passages to the point of ignoring the clear ones is not acceptable or healthy. This lopsided type of passion is what creates division, not unity.