Sometimes, I catch myself living for forgiveness. One of the beautiful things about a Christian life is that we do receive the forgiveness of sins, but this gift also begs to be taken advantage of- because I admit to sinning boldly with the knowledge that grace and forgiveness is just around the corner. That in mind, I’ve found that there is one verse in the Bible that stops me dead in my tracks every time:
Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (ESV)
The New Living Translation replaces the word ‘fulfill’ with accomplish. Jesus didn’t throw the law away to never be used, and he didn’t discredit the warnings and wisdom of the prophets. Jesus accomplished them. He kept the law, and he took on the punishments the prophets warned about. Jesus accomplished the kind of life we should all aim to live, and praise be to God that he did.
I haven’t met a Christian yet that didn’t aspire to be more like Christ. It feels so unattainable, but on paper we should be able to get a lot closer than most of us are. You and I have access to the same law and prophets, often times in many different translations and on multiple platforms. Shouldn’t our goal be to accomplish the law and receive the wisdom of the prophets as well? It is time to stop living for forgiveness, and start living like Christ.
I’m not asking you draft a list of Levitical food laws or anything (many of you would stop at the point of no bacon anyways) but I am asking you this: What would it take to live different? Christians have been trying to “fit in” for too long, when in reality we have an entire book filled with small but radical ways to influence those around us by being different. One of my favorite examples of living contrary to American culture is the book of Proverbs, and I hope to challenge both you and myself to accomplish some of these ways of life.
Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
In the middle of a stressful week, do you ever find that everyone else just seems incompetent? In reality they are doing a fine job, but in the midst of carrying your heavy burdens, you find your “soft answer” turning into an obnoxiously harsh word spilled out at the window of a McDonald’s drive thru? Save your table flipping moments for Satan and his kind, and give out soft answers to those who could desperately need them.
Proverbs 20:4 “The sluggard does not plow in autumn, he will seek at harvest and have nothing.”
This of course is a warning, and the lesson is that we should be careful to not fall into laziness. (By the way, this is one of many proverbs about not growing lazy or falling behind in your work.) This one sticks out for me, because I couldn’t help thinking of the parable of the sower. Yes, there will be times that a planted seed yields nothing. But we are called to cast the seed regardless. And the work doesn’t stop there. Plow your fields, water the seeds, and make sure they have as much exposure to the sun as possible. If you also work in a secular job, let your hard work set you apart from a culture of entitlement- and never seek more harvest than you plant. You never know who will be influenced by your persistence.
Proverbs 26:17 “Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.”
This is a tricky one, because most Americans have a “big brother” attitude, in which we feel like we are doing something wrong if we don’t throw ourselves in between every argument and personally defuse the situation. And then we get astounded when both parties turn against us, and the victim in the situation becomes the one who didn’t take part in starting the original conflict. Yes, we are called to defend the helpless- don’t misinterpret this proverb as a “do nothing” statement. But quarrels and oppression are extremely different situations, and in one instance you could be heroically throwing stones at Goliath. But in another, you could just be provoking an angry dog to turn against you, and ultimately missing an opportunity to share the love of Christ.
As you comb through other proverbs, continue to imagine how your life could be a testimony of God’s truth. There are some proverbs that you may not be able to sort out in one sitting, but don’t be discouraged. Our goal while we live a more proverbs influenced life should be to stop leading ourselves into sin. Personally, I have stepped away from all three of the proverbs above, and found myself sinning against God and those around me. It’s time to stop living for forgiveness. Let’s stop living like the law has been abolished, and start living with the motivation to try and accomplish it.
Peace and Blessings,