The Need for Law- Question

At the end of my last study it came up how the Atonement of Jesus Christ was performed to fulfill the laws of our fallen world, while also enabling a new law, one of grace and salvation. The scriptures say a very great deal about law, and speak to a sense of system and procedure in divinity.

But at the same time, structured religion is becoming less and less popular today. People seek ways to be “spiritual not religious,” and refute the idea of a God who has terms and conditions. I do understand the reason for this, it is a very difficult thing (perhaps impossible) to not project all the limitations and flaws of our mortal laws and governments on the divine. Because we see how our attempts at structure are so flawed, we struggle to imagine what a perfect structure could be like.

But that does not mean that the perfect structure does not exist. Rather than trying to excuse ourselves from God’s law (because we cannot conceive of it properly) we should broaden our perspectives to better glimpse it. And the more we do glimpse it properly, the less hesitation we will have in being subject to it.

With this study I would like to consider what different laws are described in the scriptures and what their purposes are. I would like to consider why we need law, and why God uses this form for leading His children. Finally I would like to examine how the implementation of divine law does not preclude a divine Father being able to have a personal (and personalized) connection with each child.

I would be curious to hear how you have been able to resolve the rigidity of divine law with the warmth of paternal love. What differences are most significant to you between the Old Testament law and that of the New Testament? What reasons do you believe are behind those differences? What do you think perfect law looks like when perfectly understood?

Respect in Our Differences- John 4:9-10, 19-21, 23

Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

COMMENTARY

For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans
The Father seeketh such to worship him

When Jesus attempted to travel through Samaria, they denied him entrance into their village. His disciples then asked him if they should call down fire to destroy that nation and he rebuked them for such a suggestion (Luke 9:51-56).
In the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, we see that Jesus still retains thoughtful concern for these children, and looks forward to a day that the boundaries between them can be broken. He makes clear that the Father still seeks for people like her to share in the riches of heaven.
I am convinced that the highest courts of heaven will be populated by Christians and Jews and Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists, and all other manner of sincere seekers for truth. If we try our best, but are somewhat misaligned, our trying is not going to be discounted because of it. Let us never forget, that in the end, “the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Respect in Our Differences- Romans 14:2-3, 5, 14-15

For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.

COMMENTARY

Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth
One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
Any moral code is going to stipulate some actions as being worthy and others as unworthy. This is not only true of the moral codes within organized religion, even a rubric as vague as “what’s currently trending in society” still advocates for certain behaviors over others. Of course, different moral codes will disagree with one another as to which actions are worthy and which are not.
Proponents of these different moral beliefs often waste a lot of time arguing their points to those that do not even subscribe to the same tenets. Because each side values entirely different criteria, the vast majority of these debates are completely pointless, destined to generate aggravation, not understanding.
Why don’t we take Paul’s advice? Let us maintain the code we truly believe in, and let others do the same. We do not have to demand that everyone else agree with us, only that they be sincere in their own morals.

But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
Tolerating another’s beliefs is good, but we can also take it a step further. Paul points out that we can take special care to not step on that which is sacred to others. Even if we don’t agree with all of their restrictions, we can govern ourselves by them while in their presence.
One does not even need to be religious do this, only socially polite. Those with vices still often put their cigarette out around non-smokers, choose jokes that don’t offend any present demographic, and avoid swearing around children.
Paul isn’t trying to tell us to be disingenuous, he simply wants us to be courteous.

Respect in Our Differences- Philippians 4:8, Articles of Faith 1:11, Matthew 7:12

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

COMMENTARY

If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things
Allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may
I have spent some time advocating for holding to your sincere beliefs, while also allowing all others the same privilege. So long as a religion genuinely improves the morality and spirituality of its patrons, then it should be recognized as a worthy vessel for good.
Perhaps you see some ideologies that are flawed, but which are still accomplishing far more good than harm. Would you want to risk destroying the 90% that is good, just to expunge the 10% that is flawed?

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them
Of course not all ideologies really are 90% good. I do not claim that all beliefs are valid. I have no patience for ideologies that call for the eradication of human life, and declare war on a specific demographic.
Creeds like these are logically self-defeating. One way to tell truth from error is whether the principle destroys itself when held in the hands of another. Consider religious intolerance. To wish to destroy another religious sect is to support a principle that would destroy you if held in the hands of another. Thus the notion is crushed under its own weight.
I also reject those that use spiritual trappings for predatory or manipulative purposes. There are ministries that promise blessings and healings…but only if one calls in and provides their credit card number.

In the end, I believe there is much that is good in this world, more good than we often realize. And I believe every source of good should be supported and celebrated. But I also believe that one must be cautious, for while many things are good, certainly not all things are.

Respect in Our Differences- John 13:35, Romans 12:5, Mark 9:33-35

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?
But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.
And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.

COMMENTARY

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another
So we, being many, are one body in Christ
I believe Christians sometimes believe that the body of Christ refers to their particular sect only, and not to any of the others. But why can it not be referring to all Christians?
Christ, himself, gave the definition for being one of his followers, and he did not say it was by being only a Catholic, or only a Lutheran, or only a Mormon. He said “men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” So if I have love for a Methodist and a Jehovah’s Witness, then what am I? A disciple of Christ. And if a Protestant and a Presbyterian have love for me, then what are they? Disciples of Christ. And if we do not have love for one another, then what are we? Not disciples.

They had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest
And he saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all
I believe many Christians also have a mistaken fantasy that when Christ comes again he will point to their church and say “This. This was the right one, and all the rest of you are wrong.” In essence, we, like the disciples of old, are hoping that Jesus will choose us as the greatest above all others. But Jesus cautions us that desires to be the greatest debase us to the lowest.
Let us suppose that your own religion teaches the absolute truth and mine is somewhat amiss. Yes, when Jesus comes He would need to then correct all of the misconceptions that I hold. But I am certain that he would not do this by wagging his finger and telling me just how wrong I am. Rather he would accept that I am striving for rightness, and lovingly show me how to be even more so.
It would be like a servant washing the feet of the disciples that still have a little dirt on them.

Respect in Our Differences- Luke 11:17

But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth

COMMENTARY

A house divided against a house falleth
Yesterday I told about a positive experience I had when another Christian and I shared our different beliefs, but it would be dishonest of me to pretend that all of my interactions with other Christians have been so positive. During my mission I would meet missionaries from other sects, who sometimes would approach me and challenge my beliefs. I would answer them defensively, and then I would try to point out flaws in their own beliefs. I was never gracious enough to just let the challenge go.
While these moment left me flushed with an intoxicating adrenaline, they absolutely did not make me feel closer to my Savior. I did not feel that I had nobly defended the truth against an enemy, I felt that I had dirtied myself in a petty squabble. A squabble with one who ought to be my friend.
It was infighting among the ranks of fellow Christians, and our line was weaker against the assaults of Satan because of it. The more we fight with each other, the more we do the adversary’s work for him. Are we then truly Christian? As Christ, himself, warned: a house divided against itself cannot stand.

Respect in Our Differences- Luke 9:49-50

And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.
And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.

COMMENTARY

And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name
And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us
During my mission I met a Christian of another sect. We had a brief conversation, and each of us expressed a curiosity to know how the other had come to follow the sect that they belonged to. We each shared our conversion experience, how we had felt God manifest to us the right path to follow. We congratulated one another on their discovery, and parted amicably.
And in the end, both of us still believed in the rightness of our own path. It is extremely easy for us to jump to the conclusion “if God told me to follow this path, then no other path can truly be following Him.” This line of thought leads one to judge others as foolish or deceived by evil.
For a moment, let us suppose that your particular niche of faith, whatever it might be, is the single, penultimate truth that God wishes for all of us to follow. Under this scenario, then yes, the variations in my belief would be detrimental, and they would be limiting me from my full potential. And yes, you would be well-justified in inviting me to a higher truth.
But that would not be the same as saying that I am against you. Because in the end, I am still trying to cast out devils. I am fighting against the forces of violence, lust, greed, and selfishness. And I am doing this in the name of Jesus Christ. I attest that he is the only one with power to defeat these evils and reclaim our souls.
Therefore, even if you think I am somewhat misaligned, Jesus has affirmed that I am misaligned in his general direction. He has recognized that I am for him. And even if I think you are a little misaligned, I do also appreciate that you are for him, too.

Respect in Our Differences- Personal Example

I disagree with you, but that’s okay. Is this something that we can respectfully look one another in the eye and say? So often in this world to disagree with another is to hate them. To hold a different opinion is a an irredeemable crime, it makes one a mortal enemy.

Absolutely I feel that we should evangelize for what we believe in, and should try to share what truths we have gained with those that are receptive to them. But some people will not wish to share in them, and the test is whether we can accept that graciously.

Without a doubt, each of us know people who we feel are unequivocally in the wrong. Or at the very least, are more wrong than us! Can we maintain that they are wrong, but also still a worthy person?

I have a friend who is an atheist. We spoke about religion a few times, and I am pleased to say it was always respectful from both sides. Each of us was genuinely curious to just understand one another better without judgment. In the end, my friend still thinks that I am naïve, and I think that he is cynical. We therefore see fundamental flaws in one another. I think that he is wrong, he thinks that I am wrong… And yet we still think that one another is a good friend.

Would it be nice if my friend became a believer? Of course. I honestly feel it would be a source of great joy to him. But for now it is not necessary for him to agree with me, only that he and I do the disagreeing respectfully.

Respect in Our Differences- Ephesians 4:5, Proverbs 21:2

One Lord, one faith, one baptism

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts

COMMENTARY

One Lord, one faith, one baptism
Our different religions agree on many things. Universally we find teachings of being kind to one another, of caring for our souls, of seeking out principles of truth. Eventually, though, there is always a difference. If there wasn’t, we would all be the same religion.
In my case I am a Christian, and what distinctly sets my faith apart is that I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and the only means by which we may return to God’s presence.
But of course, even umbrella faiths like Christianity are even further subdivided. So more specifically, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and one element that sets my faith further apart is that I believe my spirit was premortally created by God, with the intention that I postmortally become a divinity like Him.
And so when I read in Ephesians that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, this is what I believe it to be referring to.

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts
But of course, I know that a Catholic would disagree with me. As well as a Protestant and Methodist and Jew and Muslim and Hindu and Atheist. As convinced as I feel of what the “one truth” is, I accept that others are so convinced of their “one truth,” too.
I will even concede that I am fallible. I will admit that my beliefs were originally taken on authority, handed down to me by family and culture, and therefore subject to strong bias. A few of those beliefs I am still taking on authority, because I have not yet developed a personal conviction of them.
So yes, there are shortcomings in my belief, but fallibility and bias are inherent in everyone else’s belief as well. Yet each of us do still believe that we believe rightly. I do so, because of the spiritual awakenings I have had as a result of following this path. I have had moments of God confirming many of these truths to me. Certain commandments and teachings I feel very strongly connected to. I am certain that I am God’s son and that He loves me. I am certain I have a Savior who knows my personal pain, and lifts me to a better state. I am certain that the Bible and the Book of Mormon contain the word of God.
If you don’t believe what I believe, I certainly understand why not, and I do not blame you for it. I surely disagree with some of your beliefs, too, but do so without any hostility. I maintain deepest respect for all sincerely-held beliefs.