..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"Bong Hits 4 Jesus" & $67 Million Dollar Pants: The Sad Difference between the Letter of the Law and the Spirit of the Law

Yesterday I listened with horror and incredulity
to two of the lead stories on the news: one
was the verdict of the judge (God help us) who
sued a dry cleaner for $67 million dollars because
they had lost his trousers. He felt they did not
live up to their bargain of "satisfaction
guaranteed" and thus suffered "emotional damages."
If a grown man in the capacity of a judge suffers
emotional damage from losing his trousers, especially
when he wasn't even wearing them, then the measure
of manhood has really gone downhill fast.

The other story concerns a ruling that went
all the way to the Supreme Court of our nation
that argued whether a school principal had
acted past her authority in tearing down
a poster at a graduation at a school she
presided over. The banner said, "Bong Hits
4 Jesus."

So what I am pondering today is the difference
between the letter of the law, and the spirit
of the law, and in our interaction with God,
the difference between law and relationship.

First of all, let me say this, I think we
are in a scary place as a nation because while we
rightly try? to enforce our laws, our
interpretation or re-interpretation of them
is based not on common sense or a sense of
what is truly right, but on the tense and structure
of the words and how others have parsed out
their meaning in other courtrooms and situations.

I remember as an undergrad that for a brief
season I thought of becoming a lawyer. I
ruled it out when I saw that a terribly
guilty person could get off scott-free
because I was, as a lawyer, a very clever
arguer. It seemed that the law sometimes had
less to do with the facts and more to do
with who was best at putting them together
to their advantage. The spirit of the law
was most often missed.

Let's apply this to our relationship with
God. God gave us the Law, for many reasons,
but one of them was so that we did not
go far astray while we were getting to
know who He was and what He was like.
The law was meant as a tutor to bring us
past the point where we needed a tutor:
we would have learned our studies and
would enter into genuine and right
relationship with God (Galatians 3:24, 25).

God's law is not about interpreting itself,
but about looking for what God meant
when He created it. Since we have divorced
God and government, we do not look for God's
mind or will in our law interpretation. This
leaves us only with the body of Law as god so to

But in spiritual circles we may be no
better. Do we just want to know what
God wants and not truly engage in relationship
with Him? Do we try to get by with the
least amount of relationship with God as
possible? Do we prefer to send Moses (the
leader) up the mountain to encounter
God but wait down in the safety of
the valley ourselves?

How many times have you heard arguments
about how far away from God someone can go
and still be "saved"? To argue and think in
such a manner is to live by the law and
not relationship. Why would you want the
least amount of salvation when you could
have the most? How many times have
I heard hours and hours of argument about
the meaning of a scripture when there is
not a commensurate amount of time
spent seeking God Himself about what
He meant?

When we argue over the meanings of
scripture, we are often looking for loopholes
or to reduce the scriptures to something we
ourselves correctly interpret. Again, where
is relationship with God? If the law is a
tutor, then one day I should not only understand
the letters, but understand the Spirit behind Law,
and that Spirit is not just some metaphysical
principle, but an actual Living Person: the Spirit
of God. He should have a preeminent place in
my heart, should inform my thinking, monitor
my speaking, and show me the Way to the Father.
Until I know how to fully cooperate with Him
and hear His Voice, I need to keep getting

As for the secular part of this, what we
have to face as Christians is that up until
a few years ago you could talk about
Christian values and American values and
at least put them in the same family tree,
but that is less and less the case and we
need to be careful not to forget the
growing rift between the two.

Still, where is the spirit of the Law?
The bong poster case (the right for
the young person to display this
poster at the graduation) lost by only
1 vote. Do I believe in the right
to free speech? Yes, but only
to the degree that God does. God
allows man free will: the freedom to
do what he wants, at least for a season.
But God also warns that some forms of speech
are hurtful and many forms of speech are

In the world, yes, the ancient world
I grew up in, it was the duty of parents
to show young people where they were
going wrong, not to support their
attempts to disrupt, mock, or outright
disdain authority, religion, or the
rights of others to engage peacefully
in the normal events of life.

Only a few decades ago if this had
happened, the young person responsible
would probably have been grounded
or should I say, get the biggest
whipping of their life for disrupting
a school graduation with inflammatory
signs and for shaming the name of the
family. Now it goes all the way to the
Supreme Court and loses by only one vote?

Even if I am only using common sense,
should I not come to the conclusion
that $67 million dollars retribution for
a lost pair of pants is idiocy, or
that my darling, by still morally
challenged teenager, should not be
allowed to disrupt public events
for no real reason other than a
a good laugh? Young people can't see
where life might take them if they
are not properly schooled in both
moral as well as academic subjects.
Paris Hilton probably has a slightly
different take on things then she
did a few months ago. Life lessons
are often costly ones.

When the Law of God is separated from
its Maker, or in secular government,
separated from a clear sense of
moral obligation, concern for well-being
of my neighbor, and the long-term common
sense of a nation, and replaced with
the selfish agendas of power-arguers, or
the insane, then there is sure to be trouble.

There already is. Be prepared for more.
Be prepared, also, to turn back to simple
relationship with God. Start there. The
rest will take care of itself. God is able
to direct all who ask Him for direction.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of
knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and
instruction (Proverbs 1:7).


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amen. 'Nuf said.