Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Holier than God

For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. – Romans 6:14

When we forget grace, we try to become holier than God. And, frankly, we don’t do a very good job. Once, I was literally one penny short on the change I needed to pay for copies at the UPS store. How embarrassing! Of course, the guy was really nice and told me to just make it up next time. (Not that I wanted to show my face there again!)

Later, I mentioned it to some Christian friends. They felt I should go back to the store and paid off my debt. The reasoning was twofold: I should pay back what I owe, and this would show that Christians are honest. I dutifully paid it back, thus proving that Christians are honest, but also quite weird. I think perhaps we were getting a little caught up in religious law keeping.

It’s uncomplicated to be holier than God when not much is at stake. It’s not so straightforward when lives are on the line. For example, most Christians would agree that lying is wrong, plain and simple. Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch lady who hid Jews during World War II. For a time, she and her family lived a lie, hiding people behind a cleverly designed fake wall in their home. Were they sinning? Of course not! They were loving – the heart of God’s Law.

They were finally caught and sent to concentration camps, where all but Corrie died. During Corrie’s release, she was asked to sign a document that stated she had received humane and fair treatment during her stay. Although this was a lie, she signed it. Somehow, I doubt God had a problem with that one.

Have you ever been so tired and broken that the finer points of lawkeeping are just beyond you? Happy condition! Here we encounter God as the real Person He is – not a Law Machine – and it’s very freeing.

There are examples of righteous law-breakers in Scripture. In Joshua 2, a heathen woman named Rahab hid some Israelite spies on her roof. “So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab, ‘Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.’ She said, ‘Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from…. They left. I don’t know which way they went.’” So saying, she lied.

How did God respond? Rahab was welcomed into the nation of Israel (Joshua 6:25). In Hebrews 11:31, she is commended for her faith.

When righteous living becomes disconnected from loving motives, we have the holier-than-God problem. We strive to keep the smallest religious laws. The irony is that in doing so, we completely fail to fulfill the Law. We become hard and unloving.

Jesus rebuked the Pharisees of His day for this tendency. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

Jesus also told His disciples, “apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) The truth is, we simply cannot fulfill God’s righteous Law without the empowering of His indwelling Holy Spirit.

And what is this Law? “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’” states Ephesians 5:14. If we choose to love, by the Holy Spirit’s life in us, we fulfill the Law without even trying!


  1. This world would be so amazing if everyone just practiced this law. I am going to be just a little bit better everyday! Thanks for your beautiful post!

  2. I agree with your post. the sadthing is that many churches have become so bound by laws that they;ve forgotten God's command to love mercy, to act justly and to walk humbly. (this is my child's memory verse of the week, taken from Micah. :)

  3. Thanks for this touching post!
    If we could all just treat everyone with love and compassion...

  4. Thanks, Becky Jane. I'm glad this was helpful. Martha, I agree. No one wants to risk looking like a "bad" Christian, so we tend to keep each other under law keeping in the church. It's important to fear God more than man.
    Thanks, Janie! Just a little love and compassion really does make a difference. You never know how badly someone might need that.

  5. Thank you for a lovely and thought provoking post. The world would be a far better place if we all treated others as we want to be treated. Thank you! I'm visitng from voiceboks!

  6. What a great post and reminder! Following you from VoiceBoks!~Lisa
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  7. It all goes back to the Letter of the Law or the Spirit of the Law. Thank you for the great post - not preachy, just thought provoking and simply reminding us of our duties as disciples of Christ.

  8. Thanks everyone for the comments! Melanie, it took me so long to get a clue about the Spirit of the Law. I wish it were clarified more from the pulpit. I think many Christians struggle under a burden of trying to follow the Letter of the Law. Thanks for your encouragement!

  9. This was a great expounding about the Law. I think that the hardline behavior towards the law borders on legalism which takes away the intent which is to love God. Glad to have met you via Voiceboks.

  10. Thanks, Miriam! Yes, I believe that legalism is where we go when we don't want to deny self and love God. Great to meet you, too.

  11. Wow, amazing post but of course God's scriptures are always amazing...thanks for your great comment on Espanol para Ninos. Hope to see more posts and love reading them:) Glad to connect with you on voiceBoks.
    have a Great awesOme Day!!!

  12. Love this post! Our pastor has been covering the book of Joshua the past few weeks during his sermons. You're right on with the message here. Live with love, pray for the Holy Spirit to guide our hearts and our actions, and as long as we're listening to God's command, we won't go wrong.

    Hope you have an amazing week! :)


  13. Thank you for such a thought-provoking post. You are so inspiring!


    P.S. Visiting from voiceBoks!

  14. I love the title of your blog! And this was an inspiring post. My father has a sort of similar story about being convicted to pay what he owed even when it was a tiny amount that most people wouldn't think twice about. He made a phone call on a pay phone (remember those?) and at the end his quarter came out. He couldn't get the phone to take his quarter and he wound up calling the operator to see if she could get the phone to take it. She of course thought he was crazy. The story made quite an impression on me though :)

  15. Thanks for the encouraging comments, ladies!