Sports commentator and author, Mike Greenberg, appeared on the CBS Morning News program within days of football’s divisional championships and was immediately asked to comment on the alleged “cheating” by the New England Patriots; who have had issues in the past, “fudging” the rules to gain an advantage over their opponents. Mr. Greenberg’s first comments spoke to the point differential at the end of the game, saying he didn’t really believe Indianapolis could have won anyway; ending with the old NASCAR adage, ‘If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.’ Really?!
The discussion then switched to his new book, My Father’s Wives, a non-sports novel concerning a man who has it all – or at least all he wants – who comes home early from work one day to find his wife in bed with another man. In the aftermath of this “revelation”, he attempts to reconcile himself to this unexpected situation by interviewing his father’s five wives to get an idea of who his father was – a man he barely knew, who had left his mother when he was but a young child – to gain insight into his father and any possible link to his faults he might share in.
What makes this discussion pertinent is the question CBS Morning News correspondent Charlie Rose quickly posed to him (I think only partly in jest); “Is finding your wife in bed with another man really cheating?” The idea behind the question being, if this was the first time, does it count? If she wasn’t really serious about the guy, should it matter?, etc. All of which speaks to our society today and the influence of situational ethics. What constitutes breaking the law, cheating, or even sin? Should there be an outside arbiter who decides – an ultimate source or unbreakable code by which we live, or should everyone decide for themselves what is right and wrong? (The obvious problem with that being man’s propensity to see himself and his needs as being paramount in most situations, often leading to less than ethical decisions.) Or more succinctly put, it’s only wrong if I get caught.
James deals with this issue when he declares, “…whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking it all.” Citing a couple of examples, he then asserts that compartmentalizing sin – refraining from some sin while engaging in others, still makes us a confirmed “lawbreaker.” (James 2:10,11) But wait a minute! I thought as Christians we were free from the law. Yes we are, at least from all the petty do’s and don’ts of the Jewish legal system. But James is here referring to what he calls the “royal law” found throughout scripture. (James 2:8) Based on the injunction to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”; found in Leviticus 19:18 An Old Testament law Jesus coupled with another from Deuteronomy 6:5 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart… soul… and mind.” Claiming the two – combined – as representative of all the Law and Prophets. (See Matthew 23:37-40) Actually going so far as to insist, “There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31 (See also Matthew 7:12 & Galatians 5:14)
Scripture speaks of “a law of Christ,”; wherein we, “Carry each other’s burdens…” Galatians 6:2 Freedom from the “Law” not meant as an indulgence of our sin natures, allowing us to dictate what others should do to please us or define the parameters of right and wrong, but steering us to the law of love, where we “serve one another…” Galatians 5:13 Even Paul, the great expositor of freedom from the Law, still cautioned, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the Law.” Citing several Old Testament injunctions against harming others, he then insists they are then covered by the law of love, as “Love does no harm to its neighbor.” Romans 13:8-10 Further defining love by its actions as listed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
All this affirms rather than negates his insistence that, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming…” Hebrews 10:1; asserting that, “…when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.” 1 Corinthians 13:10 The love of Christ, which drove him to the cross, mirrored in our love for him; which then “compels” us to respond similarly in sacrificial living. (2 Corinthians 5:14)) Paul acknowledging that, “The only thing that counts is faith, expressing itself through love.” Galatians 5:6
Jesus himself proclaimed, “A new command …love one another.” John 13:34 (See also John 15:17) Setting the parameters of discipleship on this one principle. (See John 13:34,35) Insisting, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15 While assuring us that, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love.” John 15:10 Simply stated by Paul as, “Do(ing) nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider(ing) others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3,4 (See also Romans 12:9-21 & James 2:14-26 for practical applications of our expressions of love.)
Scripture is replete with calls for us to reciprocate God’s love (1 John 4:19), often fashioned as love for our fellowman. (1 John 4:21) The Law finding its fulfillment in love, a principle taught “…from the beginning.” 2 John 5 (Certainly of Christ’s ministry, in an abstract way – throughout the Old Testament as well.) John defining love as, “…walk(ing) in obedience to His commands.” Because, “As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” 2 John 6
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