Is it possible this myth heard ‘round the world is actually increasing in popularity? I wonder if even now it’s dead even with or even past the “Christians aren’t supposed to judge ever” myth?
Perhaps it’s best to leave this little lie alone. After all, it brings so many people together in agreement, doesn’t it? Many Christians want to be loving to their unsaved friends, or “worldly” Christians. Or they may want to correct for their legalistic backgrounds, and make sure they emphasize that God is all about love, not rules. The popular evangelical phrase remains, on a billion church signs: that “Christianity isn’t about rules, it’s about a relationship.”
So they present one side of a truth, to the point of half-truth: Jesus isn’t about the Law.
But that is not what Scripture says. This is clear not only from the epistles written by Paul and other apostles about Jesus, but from the words of Jesus Himself.
“Take a look, it’s in a Book …”
Jesus fought the Pharisees because they were all about the Law, and He was all about love.
AKA: Jesus wasn’t about rules, He was about love and personal relationship with Him.
AKA: “Christianity isn’t about rules, it’s about relationship.”
“The God of the Old Testament is a vengeful God,” says a popular professing Christian during a lecture circuit, named the same as his new book with a catchy, “outrageous” title. “He is all about the Law and following a system of rules. Then along comes Jesus, and His only law is the law of love! He accepts people just the way they are. He breaks down the barriers.” 1
[After agreeing that boundaries are in the Bible] Jesus is frequently breaking through those boundaries, challenging what the OT purity laws say about dirt and cleanliness, Sabbath and love…which is why Christianity has always had a bit of an iconoclastic streak. Add to this Jesus’ acceptance of the Other, be they of an enemy empire (the Centuriion)2, or heterodox (like the many Samaritans who held a different canon and worshiped at a different temple), or outright occult (the blessed Magi who visited the child Christ [. . .]), you see a relaxing of the boundaries and a universalizing of the Old Covenant’s YHWH into a God who brings “peace and glad tidings of great joy to all peoples[.]”
From an acquaintance’s Facebook post
All my religious training was in Sunday school, maybe 25 years ago, and the main thing I remember was that God was always smiting the Pharisees. At least I think it was the Pharisees[. . . .]
My wife, who has had bales of religious training, tells me that this was the Old Testament God, who was very strict, whereas the New Testament God is a genuinely mellow deity, the kind of deity who would never smite anybody or order you to smear goat’s blood on your firstborn son, which is the kind of thing the Old Testament God was always doing.
The otherwise hilarious author and humor columnist Dave Barry, from a 1985 column
While it is easy to make lovey-dovey Christians (or those who want or claim to be so) into easy villains, I hope to Heaven that Biblical Christians will not overcorrect the opposite way. We’re already needing to deal with overcorrection — from not-loving-enough views of God to a “love”-as-the-only-defining-attribute view of God. Let’s not swing the pendulum back again!
It is so true that Jesus came to Earth to exercise love. No informed Christian would deny this. He healed the sick, taught of His Father’s care for people, lived as a Man, comforted the hurting, and did not fight back when He was persecuted.
He did not specifically deploy punishments, like God the Father. At that point, it wasn’t His goal.
What’s the lie in this?
What Biblical Christians would disagree with is that “love” is so easily understood as simple healing from sickness, or acceptance of all other views, or especially making things easier for people who had suffered under the Old Testament Law for centuries. Rather:
- Jesus doesn’t just release people from the Law’s burden. He increases it, by reminding us that true violations are in our hearts, not in our deeds! Only He Himself can remove its burden.
- Jesus does not oppose the Law. He opposes false views of it. He decries the often-willing ignorance of some people, in particular religious hypocrites. Such people refuse to see that the Law pointed to Him as the One Who relieves its burden for those who repent and believe Him.
- And Jesus did not come to overthrow the unfair, too-hard Law. He came to fulfill it.
(This topic is so incredible, deep and rich that it will take at least three parts of a new series to get through it. Watch for the next part coming Saturday. Meanwhile, a great way to study up on this topic is to re-read the Sermon on the Mount, especially Matthew 5: 17-20, and Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees in Mark 7: 1-13, and onward. What do you think?)