A Moral Law Worth Getting Excited Over?

By Tom Gilson Published on June 13, 2018

Have you ever seen anyone get excited, happy, joyful about the patchwork code of conduct the secular world keeps piling on to try to manage people’s behavior these days?

I know, the question sounds pretty weird right from the start. Crazy, almost. I’ve got a reason for asking it, though.

I wrote about their mess of cultural mandates yesterday: rules like, “You shall not criticize LGBT, you shall not appropriate from other cultures, you shall be tolerant of all others…” and on and on.

It’s a long and always-growing list. People only get excited over it when someone breaks one of the rules. They jumped all over Brendan Eich when they caught him supporting California’s Proposition 8. They did it with Curt Schilling when he didn’t toe the line on transgender bathroom “rights.” They even shamed Jack Horsey for tweeting that he’d had lunch at “homophobic” Chick-fil-A.

I’ve got a friend who can vouch for that last one. He works at a major downtown corporate headquarters. A year or so ago he told me how cold his co-workers turned toward him if he told them he was having lunch at Chick-fil-A. He won’t mention it there anymore.

They get angry enough with their rules, but joyful? Hah! Never heard of it.

Which makes the Bible’s Psalm 119 that much more remarkable.

The Law a Person Could Love

My daily Bible reading brought me there just this morning.. It’s the longest chapter in the Bible, 176 verses long, and the Israelite who wrote was absolutely in love with God’s law.

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Now you see where my opening question came from. Just try to imagine some secularist singing a song of love to all his rules, the way this psalmist did with God’s:

In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. … I will delight in your statutes, I will not forget your word. … My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.” (Verses 14, 16 and 20, ESV.)

That’s just for starters; it goes on for pages.

The language is stunning, almost crazy-sounding. “Consumed with longing for your rules. What kind of law could evoke such adoration?

God’s law, that’s what.

I don’t live in that Old Testament psalmist’s world. But from my New Testament perspective I can think of plenty of reasons to love God’s law. Here are five of them, just for starters.

1. God Knows What He’s Doing

Have you ever wondered what’s really right or wrong in this world? Have you wondered whether anything really is right or wrong? And if there is, wouldn’t you love to know which is which?

Secularists typically tell us it’s all relative. There’s nothing that’s truly right or wrong for everyone — but if you disagree with their code of conduct, you’re wrong! Nothing like adding to the confusion! And yet I think they’re honestly (some of them) trying to mend our broken world with them. It’ll never work.

But God isn’t confused, and we don’t have to be either. He created us, He’s perfectly wise, He knows us and He loves us. So when He gave us instructions on how to live, He knew what He was doing. By His law, we really can know what’s right and wrong.

God isn’t confused, and we don’t have to be either.

2. God’s Law is a Law of Love

Jesus summed it all up in the “Great Commandments”: Love the Lord your God with all that you are, and love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt. 22:37) The apostle Paul summed it up, “Love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:10)

The Bible gives us lots of other moral and spiritual commands, but they’re really just commentary on the law of love, telling us what that looks like in daily life.

I can see a Psalmist — and me, too — getting excited over a spiritual/moral code of conduct built on love for God and others.

3. God’s Rules Aim at the Inside

People don’t just act better, they actually are better. That’s worth getting excited over.

The secular patchwork is all about the outside person. God aims His instructions straight at the heart. For example, Jesus tells us it’s not enough for men to treat women right on the outside, but even within their hearts and minds. All Jesus’ teachings were aimed at the inner person.

The great thing about heart-based morality is that it’s real. There’s no posing, no faking, no hypocrisy in it. People don’t just act better, they actually are better. 

That’s worth getting excited over.

4. God Works on the Inside, Too

Still, if all God did was tell us, “Morality isn’t just for the outside, you have to be better on the inside, too,” we’d be in a world of hurting. Where do you stand to push yourself from one moral place to another? What fulcrum gives you the leverage to lift yourself from one level to another?

People do grow, they learn, they mature over time. But God has more than incremental change in His plan. He offers a whole new start:

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezek. 36:26-27)

With this new heart comes a change in our whole relationship to the law of God. It becomes a lot more a matter of living it out from this “heart of flesh” on the inside, and a lot less a matter of trying to act out something on the outside.

5. God Works Relationally in Love

God does this work in us personally, relationally, through His Spirit who lives in us. 

But this isn’t for people who don’t want that relationship. It’s for those who acknowledge before God that they need it, that their “heart of stone” — which represents resistance and rebellion to God and His life of love — is death. It’s for those who know they need God to give them life, who want Him to do that for them, and will trust Him to take care of it.

Which He does. Gladly! It’s the whole reason Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived and died and rose again on this earth.

Worth Getting Excited About

People get excited over God’s laws. And why not? They guide us to knowing what’s really right and wrong, they’re built on a law of love, and God meets us on a heart level to change us from the inside out so we can truly follow them.

Which is a huge contrast with the secular patchwork. It’s one more reason we know which one is the right and true track to follow to fix our broken world — and which one isn’t. 

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  • Trilemma

    Fortunately, the law the psalmist was so excited about has been abolished. The Old Testament Law consisted of 613 commands. Religious leaders added hundreds more. It just goes to show that humans prefer a myriad of specific rules rather than a few general principles to live by.

    The command, “Love you neighbor as yourself,” is a general moral principle. It creates moral relativism by making moral decisions relative to what a person thinks it means to love their neighbor. There is no shortage of people who will tell you what to think it means to love your neighbor. If you love your gay neighbor you won’t eat at Chick-fil-A in June. But what if your neighbor works at Chick-fil-A?

    People create loads of specific rules to control other people’s moral decisions. The LGBT community has obviously come up with a bunch of rules. The Christian community also has a bunch of rules. Rules based morality says I can’t bake that cake for you. Heart based morality says I can bake that cake for you.

    Rules based morality is about other people’s behavior. Heart based morality is about my behavior. Heart based morality is better than rules based morality.

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