who determines the speed limit?

what does it mean to "follow the law?" after all, we are a "nation of laws" right? we set up rules and we follow them, right? we have laws, we have rules and we follow them and we expect others to follow them also, right? traditional evangelical rules tell us that "as a good christian you never go against the civil authorities" right? after all, don't we "give some things to caesar, and other things to God?" [i already wrote on that one] we need to follow, and never question, right? WRONG!!!

i am not a person governed by laws, i am a person guided by grace. rules and laws do not impress me - and if i believe they are going against a core teaching of grace then i will stand on grace, not law. i am very willing to go to jail for grace, but i am not willing to be lost because of law. as followers we are called to live in grace, not laws - pure and simple grace. it is the difference between seeing God's scripture as "teachings" or seeing them as "rules" - i think more in line with teaching.

you see, it is easy to follow a law, it is set before you and you simply do it. one does not have to think, one simply does; for example the speed limit. you drive 65 on the freeway because that is "the law" the "posted speed limit," cool. you see, it is easy, you drive 65, it's the law. if you go over, you can get a ticket, if you drive to far under you get a ticket. now, if you get pulled over by the police, they can choice to not give you a ticket, but that is not grace - that is mercy. the idea that the police offer did not give you a ticket should not be confused with grace, because in law there is no grace only mercy - and mercy depends on the heart of the person giving it, it is not automatic to the person receiving it.

but if all that changed and it was a "teaching" that said, "drive safe and hurt no one" - what would be the speed limit? would it change with each person? would the speed limit for one be different then the speed limit for another? you see, if there is no "law" concerning a speed limit, it would be based on grace. each person would need to decide for themselves what is and is not a "good and safe speed" to drive. for some, it would be 125 and they could be safe, for others it would be 35 and they would be safe. it would not matter what the speed of the car was, as long as the person was "driving safe, and hurt no one."

but for some, that would be a very hard thing to grasp; they have a need to define what God means by "drive safe, and hurt no one." they have a need to "create a law that defines the teaching." they seek to make a law to control grace. for them the "speed limit" protects us against those who do not follow the teaching of "driving safe, and hurting no one." when we move from grace to law in the church we need a "police force" to help enforce the laws, and we need people to develop the law - and this is so not what God is seeking for us as His people. at that point we need to ask who defines the law? you? me? theologians? pastors? what happens if what you see as "God's law" and another sees as "God's law" differs? who is right?

when we become a people of laws, a people who replace grace with mercy, we get to be a people who see "boarders" and not a kingdom of God. when we replace mercy [the allowing people to 'violate' laws by not punishing them]for grace we become a people of laws - a people expecting "some thanks" for our mercy. when we look at the debates that are happening concerning "illegals" [a term that is impossible to have with a kingdom view of the world] we hear people arguing law, while some give mercy and none grace. we hear people wanting to give mercy, but not grace. if, as a people of God we see ourselves as belonging to the "kingdom of God" then we should open our arms to those who are part of that kingdom. if we do not, if we claim grace but demand laws we are not a people seeking to walk in the light of christ. we become a people who are driven by culture and not kingdom.

law says: stay out
mercy says: well, we will give you a break
grace says: welcome my brother and sister in christ

grace defies law, it causes us to see people as people and it causes us to embrace differences and learn to grow with them. i am not defined by my being born in america, i am defined by my being born again in christ.

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Sam said...

John, I'm new to your blog and have a couple of questions.

I agree that our identity is found in Christ and in the immigration debate there are a lot of people who need to see this. We do need to view people not by nationality or ethnicity, but as children of God. However, we are still a part of culture; we still have rules to obey. Not that these are necessarily God's rules or the way God would do it...but if we were really following God's law we wouldn't be having this debate anyway. As God's people we would be estabishing grace throughout the world.

Another question...is mercy really such a bad thing? Doesn't God command mercy in Micah 6:8? In a Kingdom of God world, with kingdoms of the world borders, isn't there a rightful place for mercy?

Thanks for helping us think about these issues. Sam.

john o'keefe said...


welcome :)

we do live in culture, but scripture reminds us that we are not to become so connected to the culture that we look like the culture - and in romans, paul does tell us to "go against the flow" and to be more :)

i have noting agianst culture. as a follower of christ i will naturally be "counter-cultural" at some level - and we are called to follow God's teachings and not man's law :) is it hard? yes. will it make us less friends? sure. will we be popular with the government? most likely not. but, that's ok :)

you are right, we are called to mercy in micah, and we are also called to mercy in the new testament also - but the meaning of the word has shifted over time. what we see as "mercy" today has less to do with the idea od forgiving and forgetting and more to do with the idea that "i am cutting you a break." the idea is that as follwers we should never seek to give mercy, because when we live in love, grace and forgiveness we do not need mercy - we act as christ did towards thoes from other lands.

in the new testament we are no longer "foreigners and aliens" but are all fellow citizens [ephesians 2:19].