Do vs. Be – Law and Relationships

There is a long term debate running, going back centuries, between religious people and Jesus followers.

If you have been around the “Christian” organism for any length of time you have been exposed to this virus.

The division has many descriptors: works righteousness, saved by faith, law vs. grace, etc.

As I live and journey in faith with my brothers and sisters, I often refer to this debate as “do vs. be.”

The two camps, that represent the two positions, mostly talk past one another. But here is a brief synopsis.

The “do” side; represents law, doing the law, doing good works, obedience, right beliefs, right thinking, with the emphasis upon ‘me’ doing the law. The big idea is simply this: reduce following Jesus to “do this” and “don’t do that.” The dangerous side is this: legalism, self righteousness, a sense of “God owes me” for all my ‘right behavior’ and defining who is in and who is out. Why do so many people end up in this camp? Because it is easier.

The “be” side; represents relationships, growing in the likeness of Jesus, relating to others through the lens of Jesus’ love for them and us. The big idea is: Relationships define our existence – our relationship with Jesus and our relationship with others. The dangerous side is this: a blind eye to truth in the name of maintaining relationships, co-dependency, self reliance and self righteousness. Why do so few people choose this camp? Because it is harder.

Doing the Law is always easier than being in a relationship.

We humans trend toward sloth. This is why Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

From the Garden of Eden on down we have chosen to ‘do’ God rather than be in a relationship with God. One of the blogs that I follow is by a guy named Casey Tygrett. You can find the full post here: Casey Tygrett

In one of his more recent posts he wrote this:

    In a culture that prizes law over wisdom – yes, even the Christian culture – we are constantly looking for what we can and cannot do because it makes things easier. It makes it easier to figure out who is with us and who is against us. It makes it easier to rate our day on a scale of 1 to 5 (well, the anger today was in the 2 range, so I’m going to turn off the divine wrath radar for today) and it makes it easier to read sacred texts that challenge our assumptions because then we can simply find the legality and push ourselves to believe it.

    Then, in a stunning reversal, life happens. The law stops short, here and there, leaving cliff-like gaps between belief and action that take the very breath – the very pneuma out of our lungs.
    Law doesn’t keep our relationships together. Law doesn’t save our marriage. Law doesn’t help us know what to do when we feel different when we feel for God.

Powerful words. Poignant. As I said, most trend toward law, because it is easier. The problem is that we humans also trend toward choosing either or, when what really is needed is both.

Many begin a relationship with Jesus, but then it becomes difficult and challenging. Discipleship of Jesus requires becoming less like us and more like Jesus. Next “most” look around and they see their own foils and fables in most other so called Christians, and they seem to not be working on their relationship. Rather they have chosen the path of law. So the newer believer, assumes the mantle of law, because it is easier, and because it looks like the thing that s/he is supposed to do, because most others are ‘doing’ it that way.

A disciple of Jesus; begins with a relationship with Jesus, and never lets go. The law comes in not to define the boundaries of the sandbox, but as a means of faithfulness and love and devotion in light of our relationship with Jesus. We are transformed into a follower whose inclination toward sin is deterred by the thought, “I love Jesus too much, my relationship with Him is too important to me, to abandon it for a temporary thrill.” It is the relationship with Jesus that informs our view of sin, and as the relationship grows, that sin that was once so attractive, has now begun to tarnish.

There is so much more to understanding discipleship and doing vs. be, I will be exploring more in future posts.

I would love to hear from you, your thoughts on your struggle with doing faith vs. being in a relationship with Jesus.

    Consider the following…
    – Where have I chosen “doing” in my faith rather than “being” in a relationship with Jesus?
    – How do I live out a relationship with Jesus that ‘fulfills’ the law but does not value the laws above relationships?