In our series on Bible readers, based on our book The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible
, we have taken some brief looks at the bad habits or exaggerations in our reading of the Bible. I want to examine another bad habit: seeing the Bible primarily as a Lawbook.
What happens when the Bible becomes the LawBook? What happens to our view of God? Does treating the Bible as LawBook promote judgmentalism?
There are a couple of very important operative terms here:
First, the Bible is conceived or approached (when we pick it up) as a Lawbook.
Second, God is conceived and related to primarily as the Lawgiver whose intent in giving the Bible is to command us.
Third, there is no disputing the importance of laws in the Bible — after all, God tells humans what to do from the beginning to the end. God tells Adam and Eve what to do and when it is all wrapped up God tells humans to worship him forever and ever.
Fourth, there is a huge, huge mistake here if we give Law too much prominence: in the Bible Law is a dimension of covenant making, a consequence of believing/following Jesus Christ, and the consequence of the indwelling Spirit. In other words, Law is never primary: God is not first Lawgiver but first Covenant Maker, God Incarnate, and God In Us/Empowering Us. Only then do laws come into play.
Fifth, the fundamental command, rather paradoxical if you think about it long enough, of the Old Testament according to Jesus is the command to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We need to be told to love God but it isn’t as simple as “Love me” and “we love.” The second fundamental command is to love others as ourselves. This reveals that the primary context for all commands is to illustrate or to clarify or to articulate what loving God or loving others means. For Jesus, all commands can be reduced to two: love God, love others. (I call this The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others.
Sixth, we need to learn to see the God of the Bible as the God of holy grace who reaches out to his own creation, to us as God’s very special creation, and reveals to us how best to live as Covenant People, as those connected to God Incarnate, and as those who are empowered by the Spirit. When we approach God as Covenant Maker we will see what laws are about; when we approach God as LawMaker, we fail to see the Covenant Maker.