I Have Come Not To Abolish The Law, But To Complete It

Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets.  I have come not to abolish but to complete them.  In truth I tell you, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, is to disappear from the Law until all its purpose is achieved.  Therefore, anyone who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of Heaven; but the person who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of Heaven. (Mathew 5:17-20)

Here Jesus transitions over to the Law.  Notice how He begins, “I have not come to abolish the Law.”  He is basically telling the liberals not to get to excited, there is still a law.  “The Law will not disappear until its purpose is achieved.”  Lookout conservatives, because your virtue must go deeper than the scribes and Pharisees or you will not enter the kingdom of Heaven.  He is saying that you have to go beyond following the letter of the law, beyond external behavior, but to real spiritual depth.

Jesus is striking a balance between what we call liberal and conservative.  He holds onto the foundations, the deep roots of His people.  However He also moves the edges out further than most people were ready to handle.  Conservatism at its extreme is terribly exclusive, and it leads to stagnation, isolation, and irrelevance.  Sounds like many churches today.  But, on the good side, it gives people strong boundaries, and a healthy psychological sense of identity.  Something many of us need nowadays.  Liberalism at its extreme, where all boundaries are torn down, and everyone gets to decide what is good and true for them, very often can mean standing for nothing, and a loss of central truths.  This can lead to disintegration of the group.  Nothing can be built when there is a refusal to stand for anything.  Wisdom is knowing how to hold liberal and conservative in ideal tension.  Jesus was a master at that.

Jesus says that His teachings will be like a rock you can build on.  We need a solid foundation.  A rock hard core, an Archimedian point, from which we can move the world.  For Jesus it was always God, who He called Father.  He also told us that God was our Father as well.  God wasn’t just for a small elite.  He tore down the veil of exclusiveness for inclusiveness.  This is something for everyone now.  There is still a Law, but Jesus teaches that mercy and forgiveness are the “weightier issues” of that Law.  We can’t use that Law to exclude others, even those we believe to be breaking the rules, but we can’t throw out the Law to make everyone happy.

It is a marvelous balancing act, one that few people take seriously today.  It requires patience, along with the unwillingness to simply react, or to hurt.  We need critical intelligence, but more than anything we need urgent love.  When all that comes together, it creates a rare thing we call wisdom.


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