New year new start?
I recently read of a religious spat in Pennsylvania where a parent has complained that when she takes her child to a karate class the child has to walk past a rendition of the Ten Commandments. It’s on the wall of a school that her child does not attend.**
The whole idea of being accountable to an omnipotent God is offensive to lots of people outside the church. What interests me about this is that the beginning of the year reminds us how weak we are at keeping our new year’s resolutions which are usually far less demanding than what we perceive the Ten Commandments to be.
This begs another question: what’s the relevance of these Commandments for Christians? There was considerable debate about this in the early church as they tried to work out the consequences of the long foretold Messiah having arrived e.g. read Paul’s letters to the Romans and Galatians).
The history of the church has been that people who call themselves Christians have on the one hand openly flaunted them and one the other too often in trying to keep them have fallen into a religious legality. To many the practice of Christianity is seen to be the keeping of rules and regulations. Sadly the smugness and a temptation to think you are better than others that too often comes with it. We can become Pharisees like the religious leaders Jesus condemned.
One of the tragedies of legalism is that it gives the appearance of spiritual maturity but Paul says it actually leads a believer in the Lord Jesus back into a ‘second childhood’.
The Galatian Christians were wanting to grow and go forward for Christ, but they were going about it the wrong way. Motives can be right but methods wrong.
The late Christian leader John Stott in his book _Christian Counter Culture_ (Downers Grove 1978) commented on this matter: What is the righteousness to which Christians are summonsed? It is a deep inner righteousness of the heart where the holy spirit has written God’s law. It is a new fruit exhibiting the newness of the tree, new life burgeoning from a new nature. So we have no liberty to try to dodge or duck the lofty demands of the law. Law dodging is a pharisaic hobby; what is characteristic of Christians is a keen appetite for righteousness, hungering and thirsting after it continuously. And this righteousness, whether expressed in purity, honesty or charity, will show to whom we belong. Our Christian calling is to imitate not the world, but the Father. And it is by this imitation of him that the Christian ‘Counter culture ‘ becomes visible.