"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept glory from human beings. But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope." -- John 5:39-46
There have been many attempts over the millenia to determine what it is we must do in order to win God's favor and gain eternal life. Here we see Jesus admonishing the people of his day, who searched the Scriptures in this way. They wanted to nail down all the rules of Moses, thinking that if they just followed all of them, every last tittle and jot, then they would be doing what God wanted them to do. Scribes and Pharisees are not the only ones who do this. Christians do this too, just as fervently. They may consider all the laws of Moses, adding to them from the Gospels or Epistles, or they may create a separate list.
"What is wrong with that?" you might ask. Reading the Scriptures in order to understand God's will is a good thing. Yes, it is. But, searching for rules, and tabulating a list, and thinking that following this list will guarantee you God's favor, is another thing -- not a good thing. For what happens in actuality, when we do this?
We replace God's Living Word with letters, with a contract. And we replace our seeking, loving heart with a blind or hard one. Think about it.
On the one hand, we have someone who is open to hearing God's word for him or her, on a continual basis; who turns to God, via Scripture and prayer, who seeks to understand what God wants, and who listens to what God's will is for him or her. That person is connected to the one true living God. And as Jesus said, "This is eternal life, that they know thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." (John 17:3) This is eternal life, lived eternally.
And, on the other hand, we have a person trying to follow a list of rules, compiled by him- or herself, or someone else, whose goal is to gain something, some future reward: eternal life. Complete the list and you are set. You can even judge how well you, and your neighbor, are doing. And you can be sure that, in the afterlife, you will meet God. And yet you may have just missed having a completely different Life. For, where was God's influence in your life on a daily basis? Where was your heart, mind, body, and soul?
Contracts like these rarely worked for the ancient Jews. Why? Because the rules were detached from the Living Word. A living God was no longer a factor. It was the Letter that mattered. Not the heart. Not the soul. Not the mind. Not the body. Compassion had no place in the Letter. Mercy had no place. If the Letter said: "An adulteress must be stoned." Then an adulteress must be stoned. End of story.
But what did Jesus do? He placed compassion, mercy, and love, above the rules. The rules are meaningless if our connection to one another is denied. Our continual connection to God, through our body, mind, heart, and soul, and our continual connection to one another are our primary responsibility. The ties that ought to bind us to God, and to our neighbor, are ties of love -- pure and simple -- not ties of law. When we are tied to God and our neighbor with love, everything else that is good, and necessary, will follow.
Dear God, may we always be turned to you, daily, allowing you to guide and mold us into the people you want us to be. Love always, Pam