Reconciling Law and Mercy (Part 1)

This post is very likely going to get EVERYONE mad at me at different points. But, it’s not my fault. If you want to blame someone, blame Mark Zuckerberg and that infernal Facebook. 

There I was, scrolling along the news feed one day, minding my own business. OK, technically, I was minding everyone else’s business. Among the recent posts I saw a question someone had posted: “What was Satan’s first sin?” I answered with something so clever that I immediately forgot what it was.

I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about Satan. It gives me the creeps. But, that might be a very big mistake on my part. Here’s why.

If you have a lovely painting of a beautiful field of flowers, you can’t fully see the shapes unless the artist uses darker colors to create shadows and depth. In other words, unless we can see the darkness that Satan represents, juxtaposed against the light that God represents, we may not see the full picture. Are you with me, so far?

Unless we ruminate on (not appreciate, mind you) Satan’s character and actions in scripture, we might underestimate him and miss what he’s done – and still doing – to bring about destruction of God’s people overtly, or covertly. This includes infiltration of the church.

That’s probably the first thing that pushes your buttons in this post. I’m truly sorry. I’m not talking about the beautiful Bride of Christ. I’m talking about what the church has become through the hands of mankind, with some less-than-divine inspiration. What should have been a shining example of God’s great love, mercy, and holiness has turned into a collection of mutually exclusive denominations, each claiming they have the ultimate doctrine, “thus sayeth the Lord.” If you’re mad, please stick with me a little longer because it’s important. I promise this will make sense at the end.

Satan was supposedly so beautiful and perfect. But he was (and is) also smart; he’s an expert in God’s law. He uses it two complementary ways, to further his purpose: to tempt us, and to accuse us when we fall to the temptation. Look what the Bible has to say about him.

Zechariah 3:1-2                                       
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 

Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Then Satan answered the LORD and said, "From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it." The LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause."

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.

Satan as the Accuser: He’s Telling God That We’re not Following the Law

So let me back up a second, and tell you the stupid thing I did when I first gave my life to Christ. I think it’s the same thing that makes non-Christians so mad at us enthusiastic Bible-thumpers.
I started reading the Bible, signed up for a small group through church, joined the choir, and volunteered to serve in the children’s ministry on Sundays. Then, I patted myself on the back because I was a good little Christian. That was bad enough, but it got worse. I started measuring everyone around me based on what I was doing. Yuck. Instead of an instruction manual on how to extend God’s love and grace to others, my Bible became the weapon I would wield with which to whomp them on their sinful little heads. Figuratively, anyway.

It doesn’t get any uglier than that, folks. By doing this, I tried to elevate myself onto God’s throne just as surely as Satan did.

Non-Christians, you have every right to be angry with us when we do this. It’s blatant and brutal way of using God’s law in a condition of pride. I’m so sorry if you have been judged, ostracized, gossiped about or otherwise mistreated by someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus. Please don’t hold it against him; it wasn’t from him and he loves you more than you can measure. 

Christians, we are doing Satan’s work for him when we engage in this kind of pride. We didn’t invent this tactic; it’s been around a long, long time. In very early A.D./C.E. as recorded In the book of John 8:44, Jesus calls out the Scribes and Pharisees – the earthly experts in God’s law – for this very same behavior. He even calls them Satan’s children.

 “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires.…”

The chapter begins with an adulteress brought before Jesus, who was teaching at that moment. He spent so much time in his ministry reaching out to prostitutes, tax collectors, and the sick; every group that was despised by the keepers of the law. They must have known, based on his ministry, that he wouldn’t condemn this adulteress to death by stoning as required by law, so this was an ideal opportunity to either entrap him as a teacher of heresy, or to discredit his own ministry of forgiveness. They probably figured there was no way for them to lose.

What was the work of their father? The Accuser’s goal was (is) to put an end to the teaching of the Gospel, the story of God’s great mercy, by shutting Jesus up and getting everyone back under the rigid  condemnation of, and enslavement to, the law. The law was key to maintaining power over the people of Jerusalem, just as surely as strict adherence to denominational doctrine enslaves us today.

But Jesus, being God, knew just how to confound them in John 8:8-11:

And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.

Jesus looked up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again."

Jesus did not condemn her. But, he also warned her not to sin again. That needs to be looked at some more, and you're not going to like it.

The next post we’ll examine Satan’s role as the tempter. God willing, there will still be time to read it.

Keep looking up! Our redemption draws nigh.


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