At church this morning, the pastor read to us from Eugene Petersen’s rendition of Romans 8 in The Message. You can read it here. The following passage especially stood out to me:
“The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.”
I appreciated the statement that the law was a Band-Aid on sin rather than a healing of it. I realize that I’m looking at the Torah here from a Christian perspective, but the law does appear to me to be a way to help the Israelites to adapt to the reality of sin: to offer certain sacrifices on account of sin, to establish penalties that punish sins, etc. But does that cure sin? Not really. It seeks to atone for sins temporarily or to restrain them, but that’s not a deep cure.
I guess where I struggle is that I’m doubtful that Christianity is much better. The way New Covenant advocates talk, we don’t have to redouble our efforts, for the Holy Spirit within Christians makes obedience to God a whole lot easier, or more natural to them. Maybe that’s true for a lot of Christians, but it’s far from true for all of them. Why else do Christians blab on about how they’re not perfect, but forgiven?
Moreover, I can ask God for help on a daily basis to, say, help me to keep my resentment in check, or my shortness of temper in check, and God seems to do so (according to my experience and my interpretation of it, for what that’s worth). But I hardly feel “cured”. “But that’s because you don’t believe, James”, one can say. Well, even in times when I did believe, I didn’t feel “cured”.
The “Christian” mindset definitely needs to be re-adjusted in regard to it’s views on “Law.” The Law was never intended to cure or put a band aid on. The focus of the Torah was not Salvific. Israel was “Saved” from Egypt and so they viewed themselves as the Lord’s Children already! Belief in the Lord was their Salvation in this life and the world to come. So to pit the Law against the Messiah is nonsense. Jesus’ sacrifice is the fulfillment of Israel’s Passover from Egypt and not a replacement for the Torah.
I tend to have that Lutheran sort of perspective when it comes to how Paul and Hebrews interact with the law: it’s a band-aid that cannot cure. At the same time, I wouldn’t say they think the Torah is not normative for Christians, in some way, shape, and form.