Jesus, Christians, and the law: How does that work?

Palm Cross
I woke up mostly thinking about some Bible passages, like all of Matthew 5, John 8:1-11, Acts 10:10-16, and Acts 11:4-18.
At the start of Matthew 5, Jesus says, “17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter,[c] not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks[d] one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Most Christians don’t believe we’re expected to follow some Old Testament rules, like about not wearing mixed fabric or doing kosher stuff. We see that more as something Jewish people had to do, to mark themselves as different from other people, and some people think Jesus dying on the cross meant the old law was finally fulfilled, because a new covenant was made through him, so we got grace. Actually, this debate of what rules Christians should follow also comes up in Acts 15:1-35 and it doesn’t seem like we’re expected to follow everything.
Acts 10:10-16 and Acts 11:4-18 covers Peter’s vision about him refusing to eat unkosher food, when offered by a voice from Heaven, but he’s told, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” Later, Peter explains how after his vision he meets up with people who were not Jewish and he realizes God had made them the same as him, so there wasn’t a distinction between Jewish people and Gentiles anymore. I read something today about how some people believe that visions is just a metaphor for people being equal, while others (and I’ve believed this since childhood) also see it as God allowing people to eat unkosher food. I guess that goes along with the idea of Jewish people and Gentiles being the same now.
So, rewind back to Matthew 5. After the quote I copy and pasted from, Jesus goes into detail about rules he wants people to follow and this continues into chapter 6. He basically says what people understand about past rules/statements and then clarifies what he (so God) wants them to do, like, “33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.[n]”
Here he says not to do something the ancient Jewish people considered a long standing rule. He doesn’t tell them to just go be dishonest either. I think he means that what you say needs to be trustworthy, without you having to say something like, “I swear to God I will or will not __________.” or even something like, “I swear on my mother’s life I will or will not ____________.”.
I remember learning this in Sunday school, probably over a decade ago or close to it, that we didn’t need say stuff like that and I’ve definitely said it and seen others do it too (think Stand By Me (1986) or at least one episode of Drake and Josh (2004-2007). It was definitely a habit in my childhood and the generations before me (I don’t know about now), but it looks like I can’t be citing the Old Testament as an ok for it, now, because I need to focus on Jesus and the New Testament.
So, maybe, what Jesus was saying is that those ancient Jewish people (and a lot of modern people, like us, possibly) misunderstood what God wanted. Also, during my morning research, I saw it argued that maybe Jesus also meant Christians should follow the ten commandments, that’s why he uses the word “commandments” and that when old Testament stuff is included in Jesus’s teachings it doesn’t make it more important it just makes it also apart of Jesus’s teachings.
We have John 8:1-11, where Jesus stops people from killing an adulterous woman with stones, despite the fact it was written down in the Old Testament, but he doesn’t say cheating is not a sin. He just makes it clear that we’re all sinners. This woman gets redemption through him, like how Jesus says, in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
I remember seeing passages in the Old Testament I knew most Christians didn’t apply to themselves anymore, alongside passages conservative Christians declared as being proof God is anti-gay. I remember thinking that we don’t follow some of the rules anymore and maybe one of the clobber passages was written about bad people, not actual nice same-sex couples and gay people (the only identity that can be in a same-sex couple I thought of at that moment). At 23, I’ve been talking about what I learned about research done about the context and the translations of the clobber passages for a few years, now. Most conclusions are  that the clobber passages are misunderstood and that some other/same passages that are pro-gay/bi/pan/etc. passages aren’t clearly positive to us until we look at translation and context. So, maybe, that goes along with the idea Jesus was telling people they misunderstood the law or how they should follow it.
When I think of abolishing something, I think of abolishing slavery, like how black and mixed (with black ancestry) people were enslaved in the past, but that was never ok and had to be ended. Maybe, “abolished” is to strong a word for what Jesus did. It could be that the law is applied differently through out time, like the way Old Testament people were given it in comparison to Jesus telling New Testament people something different or modified, So it’s not “abolished”, because it’s not something that was bad and had to be destroyed, like slavery, but, even if things change about rules people follow, it had to do with context of that time.
In conclusion, I’m obviously not God or Jesus, so I’m not the utmost authority on this, but I think that clearly I need to focus on how Jesus applied the law to people and what he said here:
Matthew 22:34-40 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Greatest Commandment
34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
So, I think what I can do, what we all can do, is to focus on having love for God, Jesus, and each other . That’s what Jesus talked so much about and practiced, so at least that seems like a definite pair of rules we should follow.

One thought on “Jesus, Christians, and the law: How does that work?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s