being free

I like being free. I like the way it feels.

18 December 2009

the law of green

My daily meditation a couple weeks ago was centered in the book of Romans. Romans is an amazing book about freedom in Christ. Romans teaches us that all have fallen short of God’s standards/laws, all are under judgment because of this, and yet all through faith are forgiven (made right with God) freely through grace given to us in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

As I was reading Romans I was feeling rather detached from “the law”, the law meaning God’s law. I didn’t grow up Jewish or Christian for that matter, thus I never learned about God’s law. As a result I never developed an inner conviction of what it meant to break his law. I didn’t understand God as holy, righteous, or just. Nor did I understand what sin was. And viewing myself as a sinner just didn’t compute. I suppose there are a lot of people who can relate to me on this.

What I did understand were my deficiencies. I understood my shortcomings. I understood my inabilities to live up to even my own standards. Prior to my relationship with God in Jesus, I spent a lot of time reading the Tao Te Ching. It was a spiritual guide for me. I still go back to it from time to time. As I read Lao Tzu’s writings I continued to see my shortcomings. I didn’t have the peace he wrote about. I was incapable of achieving the harmony and subtle being he so eloquently described. Yet I strove ahead. I continued to read about and practice eastern meditation; I dove into self-help books, all in the hopes to achieve an inner enlightenment and the power to overcome my deficiencies. And yet, time and time again, I fell short. I was trying to achieve something I didn’t have the power to do. I needed a power outside myself to give me what I lacked.

I was born broken, deficient, and incomplete. I was born into the world this way and had no power in myself to deliver myself from it. Thankfully God knew all this. Thankfully he knew we could not save ourselves, no matter how legalistic or righteous we become. The most moral, righteous, legalistic person in the world is still deficient, still imperfect, still in need of completion. Actually the highly moral, legalistic types can easily fall into the shortcomings of pride, arrogance, and self-righteousness, which is what many Christians are labeled as.

In reality, to be a Christian, one has to be humble, or as Jesus said, like a child. To be a Christian is to recognize your shortcomings, what the Bible calls sin. It is to recognize you fall short of not only your own standards, but God’s as well. It is to accept God’s provision for our shortcomings, which is Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus died for our sins, he paid the price we could never pay, so that we could be freed from the law and be restored to God by grace. Jesus is the power outside ourselves who restores us in our relationship with God. The restoration gives us the life of God within. Once we are restored in our relationship with God through Jesus, his inner Presence works to help us overcome our moral defects. All this is a gracious gift. It is undeserved. There is nothing we can do on our own to make us righteous. It is a gift from above.

Today I see a different “righteousness” as work in our world. A different “law” if you will. Secular postmodern America and Europe doesn’t readily recognize the supreme law of God, but it does increasingly recognize a law. This law can be every bit as legalistic, every bit as judgmental, and every bit as oppressive, as religious law. It’s the law of Green.

The law of Green, as I am calling it, is a growing environmentalism mindset. Please don’t get me wrong, I believe we should be good stewards of the earth, I have even worked on an organic farm and am hoping to grow my own organic vegetables some day. What I am talking about as the law of Green is a legalistic and self-righteous mindset about the environment. Let me give you some examples.

Amongst certain circles, if you don’t feed your kids organic food, you’re a bad mother. If you don’t purchase organic, fair-trade, or used clothing you are a bad or ignorant person. If you don’t support cap and trade you are an irresponsible, capitalistic, nature hater. If you don’t ride your bike or commute to work, you are wasteful and over-consumptive. You get the jest? There is a law here, an environmental law. A law by which some are in and some are out, depending on how you live. Some are righteous and some are unrighteous. Some are good and some are bad. It is a form of legalism, devoid from traditional religion, but not devoid of righteousness.

The problem however, is this is an oppressive mindset. Who can really live up to its standards? Over the summer I had a conversation with an environmentally aware person who expressed guilt for not being able to feed her children purely organic food. This woman felt guilt for not living up to a modern standard of righteousness, as a result her spirit felt condemned. She was guilty; she had broken the law of Green. What hope then is there for people like her?

In the age we live in, it is virtually impossible to live a “no carbon footprint” life. By the nature of our society we are dependent on fossil fuels, many of us live in energy inefficient homes and can’t afford to change it, the products we purchase are overly packaged or unjustly produced, and affordable food is produced at a detriment to the environment. What can we do? Under the law of Green, we are all condemned. We all fall short. What or who can save us from this condemnation?

This is exactly what Romans is about. Romans is about falling short. It’s not about giving up, it’s about recognizing that we all fall short, we all transgress, not only our own standards, but God’s as well. And yet, there is hope. There is a savior. There is one who took the punishment we deserved, so that we could be forgiven. He died so that we could live. He took the consequences of our sin, even our environmental sin, so that we could be set free, free from condemnation, free to love, free to better our world without being enslaved by our defects. In Jesus there is forgiveness, restoration, and new beginnings. In Jesus we don’t have to be bound by a legalistic environmentalism. In Jesus we are set free from our shortcoming and thus empowered to live rightly, not because of law, but because of love.

Love becomes our motive, we love because he loved us, and love is the fulfillment of the law. In Jesus, we can live to care for our neighbors, even our plant and animal neighbors, out of love, not out of guilt. Are we therefore to care for the environment? Yes. Are we to judge our neighbors or even ourselves for our environmental sin? No. We have all fallen short and are freely justified by God’s grace in Jesus. Let us then accept one another, helping each other know the love of God, so that we can live a life of love, towards all creatures.

Romans 3:9-31
“What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written:
"There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”….

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.”

Romans 8:1-2
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”

Romans 13:8-10
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”


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