What is God doing in the world? As we go through these days of division that have reached the point of violence or threatened violence against the foundations of our society, we may be wondering “Where is God in this?” and “What is God calling us do and be right now?”
This is a paralyzing question in the midst of the anxiety and fear and anger we may feeling. But perhaps some guidance directly from God Word (Law and Gospel) may be helpful in naming one of the most important ways God is showing up right now as you wrestle with how God is calling you to live into this time and place.
So I offer you this reminder in less than 2+ pages of what God’s Law states to us. Note that this comes from Scripture, Luther’s Small and Large Catechism, some familiar words from the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, and bit of my own work in Christian Ethics. It’s longer than usual so you may want to read on a computer or print it out rather than trying to read on your phone.
God’s Law - The Great Commandments – the two commandments upon which ALL of God’s Law is based. (Mt 22:40)
God’s Law - The Golden Rule – the governing rule that can be found in every major world religion and philosophy, including that of democracy.
God’s Law - The Ten Commandments – the laws that so many people want front and center in their communities yet refuse to follow as God wills. These emerge from the Great Commandments.
God’s Law – “God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8
If you’re hearing God’s Law as presented as a tool that you can use to bash other people over the head to justify yourself, then you’re doing it wrong. If God’s Law too easily becomes a weapon in your hands to shoot, maim or shatter other lives, then you’ve missed the point. For God’s Law was and still is intended as an earthly gift and blessing so as to order and guide our lives in the way of Christ as we relate to each other and God under the power of sin. If we all followed this law to the best of our ability even in the midst of our sin, the world would be a better place.
But the world would not be saved, for in the end the law, not even God’s Law can save. In the end, it accuses, convicts and kills anything that would destroy, hate, and tear down God’s creation. It is as a mirror that we first hear God’s Law. “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged…You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” (Mt 7:1-5)
Only when we’ve applied God’s Law to ourselves, been humbled and convicted that we can use the Law of God to direct others. Only then will we hear, receive, and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the world. For only in Christ are you forgiven, saved, healed, and made whole. That’s the Gospel message: that Christ loves you, welcomes you, accepts you, blesses you and fills your whole self with faith, hope, and joy no matter who you are, which political party you support, or in which identity group you place yourself. Through Jesus’ life, Jesus’ teachings and ministry, Jesus’ suffering and death on a cross and Jesus’ resurrection you receive new life, shalom life, blessed life, the truly great life. Never, in any political ideology will you receive these things.
So live out your salvation in Christ, empowered by the Spirit to love God and neighbor and encouraged to fulfill God’s Law the best that you can. “Blessed are those…who walk in the law of the Lord.” (Ps 119:1)
Bishop Laurie Jungling
Elected June 1, 2019, Laurie is the 5th Bishop of the Montana Synod