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Wednesday, August 08, 2018

The Exception

English is a hard language. Seriously hard. Perhaps some of the Asian languages are more difficult, but English is near the top of hard languages. One of our standard rules in English is "There is an exception to every rule." And no one minds the obvious apparent contradiction. We are really good at exceptions to rules. "Lines are our friends" is intended to be an obvious lie.

Jesus said, "What God has joined together let no man separate" (Matt 19:5-6) with such force that His disciples responded, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry" (Matt 19:10). Sounds like an absolute declaration that divorce is always wrong. So we are delighted to find what is commonly referred to as "the exception clause" (Matt 19:9) and are pleased to look for them elsewhere, too (1 Cor 7:10-15). Whew! That was close.

In fact, we don't really need biblical support for exercising exceptions to God's rules, do we? At least, certainly not for ourselves. We have no problems doing it whenever we can. Take, for instance, this admittedly difficult statement from Christ.
If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matt 6:14-15)
That is pretty clear and straightforward, but you know we will find reasons to avoid it. "You don't know what they did to me." "You have no idea of the trauma they caused." In fact, almost all of us would admit to an exception here if we heard the one I recently heard: "I will never forgive the Nazis for killing my entire family." Oh, yeah, that's a good one. Clearly an exception if we ever heard one. Except it doesn't appear that Jesus offered such an exception. And it is abundantly clear that He didn't exercise such an exception in His own case (Luke 23:34).

We are really good at finding exceptions for us to void God's commands, at least in our own lives. "But God, what they did was unforgivable." So refusing to forgive is justified. "But God, I love him." So fornication is okay. "But God, we are a committed same-sex couple." So redefining marriage is fine. It seems as if we thoroughly and completely dismantle any command we choose on our own whim and think that we have a righteous exception here.

Jesus said something different. "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." (John 14:15). He went on to say, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love" (John 15:10). So Jesus says that love for Him produces a desire to obey, not a desire to find exceptions. (We tend to think, "How close can I get to that line?". Don't want to obey too much, right?) And how did He keep His Father's commandments? Perfectly. John understood this. He wrote, "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3).

Oh yeah? Well, that's what Scripture says. So you decide. Is it better to obey because we love Him so? Or maybe you'd rather please yourself and skip the obedience when it's not convenient ... on good grounds, of course.


Marshal Art said...

Man...that "forgiving" one is tough! I intend to forgive always, but find myself being nagged by the grudge. I don't want to hold one, but they often seem to hold me. Drives me nuts. Constantly tested. Constantly failing. The battle rages.

Stan said...

For each of us, my friend. For each of us.