Monday, September 05, 2005

Moral Levees

I was explaining to my chilren this week a little about self control. A man who loves and fears God will have self control. And when he fails he will have the humility to make it right both with God and those that may have been hurt. Love keeps his heart tender and fear keeps his behavior pure. But a man who has not love or fear of God is lawless. Other measures must be taken to restrain him. It is so much more efficient to do it the first way. But we have lost our way and devotion to God is not the compass by which our society directs its affaris.

One hand clapping had a great analogy to explain this more clearly. He said,
As disciples of Jesus Christ we are called - no, commanded - to be ruled by law leavened with love, not wrath. We are commanded to be transformed in our inward
being so that we willingly heed and obey the moral commandments of God.

It was no crime for the hungry, thirsty or naked to take food and water and clothing from stores; Louisiana law even allows for it when the governor has declared a state of emergency, according to news reports. There is, however, a thin levee between taking things for support of life and outright looting, as experience this week sadly shows.

One of the things that churches should do is train the moral sense of it members. The God who created us also demands a high level of morality in us. The Ten Commandments do not say that a little murder is okay, a little adultery is permissible, a little thievery is allowable. Instead they instruct: No murder. No adultery. No stealing. There's no wriggle room.

Our continuing challenge as Christians is to follow the moral commandments of God's law without becoming legalists imprisoned by moralism rather than freed by morality. Rules are brittle; alone they make poor levees. When stressed from exceptional circumstances, rule-bound people are often the first to find their base eroded and their moral will overflowed. Rules alone oppress rather than liberate, stunt the spirit rather than grow it. Rules are imposed from the outside. Under stress, their restraints too easily break.

Love, though, comes from within. The silken covenants of love are not as easily broken as the iron chains of law. But love without rules leads to licentiousness. We can justify anything by claiming "our hearts are in the right place." Rules bring the reign of reason into the impulses of the heart. Rules can serve as a lens to focus the impulses of love and bring needed discipline to love’s fleeting nature. Love provides desire, but rules provide a will.

Only one moral levee can withstand the category five challenges we may encounter and hold back the churning seas of chaos from flowing over us. We need a solid bed of the rules of God topped by a strong wall of love.

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