Why Can’t We Follow the Law?

Yesterday, the Bible opened to Zechariah, and since I had never read this book before (or, honestly, even knew it existed), I read it all.  I was struck by this verse:

These then are the things you must do: Speak the truth to one another; judge with honesty and complete justice in your gates.  Let none of you plot evil against another in your heart, nor love a false oath. For all these things I hate—oracle of the LORD.

Zechariah 8:16-17

I was struck not because it was something new, but because it was not new.  We hear these same things in the ten commandments and in Jesus’ words to us.  And of course, we (or at least I) still struggle to comply.  Sometimes it is easy to think, well He doesn’t really mean that or it is ok if I sin because He will forgive me again.  And yes, I know God will forgive when we turn to Him, but couldn’t I do a better job actually trying not to sin, actually trying not to do the things that God hates, the things that pull us away from him, the things that essentially thumb our nose at Him.  After all, He tells us what we should not do.  He tells us what hurts Him.  How do we feel when our children, our spouse or our friends do something that they know we do not like or have expressly asked them not to do?

Sometimes it feels like in today’s world, we are quick to ignore the rules that don’t suit us or that don’t match with what we want.  The media is filled right now with the immigration issue and whether any punishment should occur when someone illegally crosses the border.  What always strikes me about this whole debate is that we get mad when anyone wants to enforce the law.  There is no dispute that the immigrants at issue are “illegal”.  In other words they have broken our laws.  I am not saying I necessarily agree with the law (but the fix is to change the law), but what happened to the idea of following the law?  We pick and choose what laws we will follow.  How dare anyone tell us what we can and cannot do.  How dare anyone tell our children what they can and cannot do.  (How many times do we see in the media stories where parents are outraged because a school enforced a rule against their child?) How dare anyone discipline our children when they violate a rule.

Do we display the same attitude to God?  How dare God tell us what to do?  Oh I hope I do not!

God,

Forgive me!  Forgive me for turning away from you, for not listening, for not following your commandments.  Forgive me for not always holding love in my heart, for listening to, and spreading, gossip.  Forgive me for judging others, for not being honest with myself or others.  Forgive me for not trying enough to do better.  I want to be a better reflection of you and your love.  Help me Lord.  I need you.

Sin is bad. Forgiveness is good.

Sometimes the Old Testament can feel fairly heavy and negative and a little bit scary.  But I like this one.

My child, if you have sinned, do so no more, and for your past sins pray to be forgiven.  Flee from sin as from a serpent that will bite you if you go near it; Its teeth, lion’s teeth, destroying human lives.  All lawlessness is like a two-edged sword; when it cuts, there is no healing.  Panic and pride wipe out wealth; so too the house of the proud is uprooted. Prayer from the lips of the poor is heard at once, and justice is quickly granted them. Whoever hates correction walks the sinner’s path, but whoever fears the Lord repents in his heart.

Sirach 21:1-6

“My child, if you have sinned, do so no more.”  What a great way to say it.  If you have (and of course who hasn’t)  just don’t do it again.  “And for your past sins pray to be forgiven.”  I feel the peace of being in a confessional.

And having spent the day dealing with the trouble created when someone cannot accept criticism and feedback, I appreciate the reminder that “whoever hates correction walks the sinner’s path.”  It is good to be humble and accept correction. We all can learn.  We all can do better.  And perhaps a little fear of the Lord is good, so we repent and accept the correction.  But I hope that I repent, not just out of fear but out of humbleness and our of love.

My God, I am sorry for my sins.  In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you, who I love above all things.  I firmly resolve, with your help and your grace to repent and to sin no more.

Turn Back

Today I started the Augustine Institute’s Forgiven series.  Powerful.  If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it (at least the first session, which is all I have done so far).

We talked about how sin separates us from God — not earth shattering news, I know.  But it’s not just the sin, but our response to it which separates us.  We separate ourselves from God by doubting his love for us when we sin.  Read more