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Friday, August 12, 2022

Prohibition vs Principle: An Example

"We serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code." (Romans 7:6 ESV)

Many Christians like to focus on the prohibitions recorded in the Torah instead of the principles behind them. Jesus Christ, however, was more focused on the principles.

Perhaps the single most glaring example of this preoccupation of some Christians with the prohibitions recorded in the Torah are those dealing with human sexual behavior. There are prohibitions against infidelity, incestuous relations, relations with a menstruating woman, relations between two men, relations with an animal, marrying a Gentile, marrying a divorced woman, rape, prostitution, etc. In other words, there is a whole lot of "Thou shalt not do this or that!" Even so, most of us would benefit from giving just a little consideration to the principles which serve as the foundation of these prohibitions.

As I've said many times before on this blog, Jesus Christ distilled the Law/Torah into two great principles: Love for God and love for neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). Later, Paul told the saints at Rome that love never harms anyone else, and that love fulfills the Law (Romans 13:10). Hence, any sexual behavior which hurts/harms another person would be disqualified by this principle! Paul told the Corinthians that "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." (I Corinthians 13:4-7) In other words, if a person truly loves another person, he/she will be faithful to their partner, refrain from forcing themselves on anyone, and avoid hurting children or family members. In other words, if a person is truly behaving in accordance with this principle of loving one's neighbor, then the need for specific prohibitions disappears!

When we think in terms of the principle, we also begin to see why Jesus Christ said what he did about divorce. After all, if folks are truly being kind, patient, faithful, and forgiving to each other, there will not be any need for any certificate of divorce. After all, isn't divorce usually a consequence of folks being unfaithful, cruel, and/or vengeful toward each other?

In similar fashion, if we make the application of this principle the UNIVERSAL standard for Christians, then we must also admit that things like sexual desire, faithful and loving homosexual relationships, and masturbation cannot be labeled as sin! They simply do NOT violate the principle of love for one's neighbor! After all, it is much more superficial and simpler to demand that folks follow specific prohibitions than it is to demand that folks love each other! Unfortunately, humans are often like water - they like to follow the path of least resistance. Nevertheless, if we are truly a Christian, shouldn't we be focused on the principles which Christ laid down for his disciples to follow? Which is more efficient: a governing principle or a list of dos and don'ts for us to try to remember and follow? And we should also be asking ourselves: Is it possible to scrupulously follow the prohibitions and still neglect the principle(s) which underpin(s) them? Does God want us referencing a chart or thinking about the implications of our behavior? What do you think?

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