Jesus knew that holiness was ultimately something positive.
It wasn’t about avoiding a bunch of no-no’s, even though that’s how Scripture often frames them. Being holy wasn’t about not breaking any timeless rules that God gave us.
Do you know people who think like this? That being holy means not breaking this or that rule or cultural more?
It’s a life-denying strategy that begins to shrink the world around them. They see evil everywhere. And they especially see when you’re committing evil. And they let you know about it.
“You’re breaking rules,” they say.
Jesus didn’t think of holiness this way. He saw it as essentially positive. Love God. And love your neighbor. That’s what the Bible is all about.
Don’t look at life as a bunch of things to avoid. Look at life as things to do with joy and gratitude. Think of yourself as God’s partner in the work of restoring creation.
Go out and love God and love your neighbor. Today. Right now.
The second thing that Jesus knew that the Pharisees didn’t was that there is a cipher to the Bible. There is a special lens through which the Bible must be read to understand it correctly.
And that lens is love. Love God and love your neighbor. “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets,” Jesus said.
This is the solid foundation upon which the Scriptures are built.
The other 611 commands in Scripture are ways of fleshing out what it means to love God and neighbor.
Sometimes it’s readily apparent how these teachings line up with the big two. For example loving your neighbor as yourself means that you don’t kill them.
But sometimes you have to do a little research. Like when the prophet Hosea tells us not to eat raisin cakes.
Now I happen to like raisins. I know others don’t. But I really like raisins. Especially raisin bran!
I thought, “Am I going to have to give up raisin bran?”
Well it turns out that in Hosea’s day, raisin cakes were baked for other gods. Eating them was a way of showing allegiance to these other gods. Apparently they liked raisins, too.
So loving God meant that we didn’t eat raisin cakes.
It made perfect sense to them in their day. But it’s not really relevant for us today.
All the commands in Scripture are ways of fleshing out what it means to love God and one another.
They aren’t ways to condemn or test one another. That was the Pharisees approach.
Jesus had a different approach. Use Scripture and faith to allow God’s love to be known in the world. To help transform the world.
That’s what it’s all about.
We need to understand Scripture the way Jesus understood Scripture.
Not something we use to test each other.
But as a testimony of the life-changing and world-changing power of God’s love.
A love that is ultimately positive and life affirming.
A love that is the key to Scripture and to life itself.
It’s been 500 years since the Protestant Reformation.
May we continue reforming ourselves and our church through God’s love.
And when we find ourselves tested, may we turn to it and trust in it and in nothing else. Amen.