Love vs. Law
By Mark Schoepp, Director of Congregation Engagement, Wheat Ridge Ministries
I want to tell you about a Wheat Ridge Ministries grant recipient I recently visited in Florida and connect it with the Advent/
Christmas season we are traveling through, but first…
If you spend much time on Facebook these days, you can see lots of posts about laws – there is no shortage of strongly-held opinions about what people think should or should not happen with various laws. And the implication is that somehow that will fix the problem. I have my own opinions about those kinds of things and perhaps you do, too. But when I think about what the scriptures tell us, I see that God is in both law and love/gospel. And when I look deeper, I find that a focus on laws never gives a very satisfactory or long-term solution to a problem.
God’s most powerful words are love – grace – forgiveness. When God showed up in Jesus, He certainly didn’t ignore the law. Starting in Matthew 5:17, Jesus explained His relationship to the law and expanded the law beyond even what we would have thought – and way beyond what we can obey. And then, before the Jesus story in the Bible is over, Jesus had paid the full price for when we broke the law, through His perfect sacrifice. And Jesus had also shown us in His life the power of love over law in how He dealt with people. Laws don’t give life; love, grace and forgiveness give life. John 10:10-11
Romans 5 is pretty clear. Nobody was doing a very good job at keeping the laws. And actually, that is how we like to phrase it: “we weren’t doing too badly.” No, we were all failing. We were dead, enemies of God and without hope. That is, until the story of Advent and Christmas break into the world. God showed up. God with us – Immanuel! We celebrate the birth, life, death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus. And that love changes us! We are given the privilege of being the messengers of that love and change.
Now, back to that project in Florida! Rivera Beach and Lake Park were two Florida communities targeted by the County Sheriff and the Commissioners as hot spots for youth crime. There was lots of it committed by elementary and junior high school students. The Sheriff had even established a permanent outpost right in the neighborhood so they could be on the scene almost immediately when laws were broken. However, there was no change in the crime rate. Then some retired folks in a local Lutheran Church decided they wanted to get involved.
They called themselves Club 100. They wanted to “show up” and that meant 100 people involved in the neighborhood in meaningful ways. They got involved in both neighborhoods by building relationships with kids and their parents over time. The crime rate went down by over 90%. There was such a big change that the Sheriff was able to change their long-term presence. Instead of investing in personnel and equipment to put a lid on crime, they invested in a permanent youth center and have ongoing paid Sheriff’s officers there whenever it is open – as long as the church volunteers would keep doing the “program” end of things (translate that: loving on the kids and families). And Wheat Ridge is privileged to help those church volunteers do their thing.
It is not that laws are unimportant. We need them. God gave us a bunch Himself. But they aren’t the long-term answer; they don’t change us. And they don’t give us abundant life. Love changes us. Undeserved forgiveness and a caring relationship – those change us. And full, abundant life comes from the Good Shepherd, whose coming we celebrate these days, and the sacrifice He gave in our place.
Look around you for ways that God’s love has shown up in your life. And look around for ways that God’s people, maybe even you, have shown up in the name of Jesus with the good news of God’s grace and forgiveness in places that desperately need to hear and experience that.
Thank you, Jesus, for loving on us and changing us from enemies to Your friends and family.
The Great Charity Challenge presented by Fidelity Investments® (GCC) is an excellent opportunity for the equestrian world to give back to the community. The GCC started in 2010, generating over $400,000 for 24 local charities. Today, the event has grown to 34 local charities competing for over $1.5 million each year. To date, the Great Charity Challenge has distributed over $7.5 million to 150 plus Palm Beach County Charities.
To read more about the 2016 Great Charity Challenge, click here.