Feb 13, 2018

The Law We Don't Like Hearing

By Ruth Meyer

You’ve shown them, all these moments, that the phone is more important than they are. They see you looking at it at while waiting to pick up brother from school, during playtime, at the dinner table, at bedtime . . . .

Those words are from the article “Dear Mom on the iPhone,” which made quite a splash in 2013 when it was first published. Judging from the number of shares I saw on Facebook, it struck a nerve in a lot of people, reminding parents that they’re sending a powerful message when they continually choose their phones over their children. I was certainly convicted, because there are times when I get caught up in my own phone, ignoring my children when they’re right in front of me.

Ah, but then came the rebuttal, “Dear Mom on the iPhone, You’re Doing Fine.” For good measure, more than one response came out, all defending moms on iPhones, and it seemed that the more rebuttals there were, the easier it was to dismiss the first article and the twinge of conscience it produced. Moms everywhere breathed a collective sigh of relief. See? I’m justified in checking my phone while my kids play! Don’t judge me! The conscience-pricking article was replaced by the more palatable message of the second. Of course some women use their phones too much, but I probably don’t. Whew!

Humans have an innate need to feel good about ourselves. We want desperately to believe that other people make mistakes; other people need to change, but not us.

This phenomenon has infested the Christian mindset as well. The Law seems very antiquated indeed. Focus on God and His love instead. Sermons that speak of sin in a generic way are okay, but let’s not get too specific. We squirm in the hard pews if the pastor starts talking too strongly against homosexuality or cohabitation. After all, we don’t want to offend anyone or be seen as unloving and intolerant.

And what if the pastor gets even more personal, aiming at sins that infect our own hearts and minds, such as gossip, coveting, lust, hatred, bitterness, etc? How do we respond? Do we flee to God in repentance, asking him daily for the strength to battle against our sinful flesh? Or do we remind ourselves that we’ve been forgiven and carry on with life as usual? Paul addresses this in Romans 6:1-2: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Indeed. Just because Jesus has forgiven us doesn’t mean we don’t struggle with sin. And sometimes we need to hear the Law in all its severity to realize how many of our own sins we have learned to ignore. We dare not dismiss the Law or gloss over it by thinking, Well, God knows I’m not perfect. I’ll always sin, no matter how hard I try. The main thing is that I’m forgiven.

To be perfectly honest, there are parts of the Bible I’d rather not read. A few weeks ago, I read the book of James, and it was brutal. Controlling the tongue? Still working on that. Slow to speak and slow to become angry? Not by a long shot. Do I show favoritism to others based on outward appearance or economic status? Do I look for ways to live my faith in actions? Do I always do the good I ought to do? If you’re anything like me, you’d like to think you’re a pretty decent person, but the Law strips that facade away and leaves you for what you are—a poor, miserable sinner.

But who wants to be reminded that he’s a poor, miserable sinner? Jesus died for our sins, right? So why dwell on them? It’s absolutely true that we are justified 100% by Jesus alone. But that doesn't mean that God does not continue to work in our lives, calling us to repentance. When God spoke through Paul to the Romans and through James to first-century believers, He was speaking to us as well. The tension of a Christian is that we are both saint and sinner. And as such, God still uses His Word to change us.

So the next time you read a Bible passage (or even a blog!) that pricks your conscience, stop for a moment to reflect. A guilty conscience can be God’s way of nudging you to turn to Him for forgiveness and a change of heart. Rest in the assurance that as His dear daughter, He will bless you with both.


Ruth is living out her vocation as a Lutheran woman in the roles of sister, daughter, mother, and wife.  Her greatest joy in life is living as a redeemed child of God, who has blessed her in her many vocations.  Besides her human relationships, Ruth's other interests include music and writing.  She is a church musician and has a special love for Lutheran hymnody.  Her children's book, Our Faith from A to Z , and her adult novel, Grace Alone, are available through CPH. Ruth keeps her own blog at truthnotes.net.  Her hope is that through her writing you are encouraged and perhaps even challenged in your God-given vocations.

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