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?

4 thoughts on “Do vs. Be – Law and Relationships”

  1. I’m not sure I agree with your premise . In the beginning of this article you set the conflict between Religious People vs. Jesus Followers; works Righteous vs. Saved by Faith; Law vs. Grace, do vs. be.. While I agree that we are saved by faith not works, I also agree with James when he says “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves, do what it says.” The point being we must be doer’s.
    I think it better positioned to say we need a balance of Law and Grace not a battle between Law and Grace. The law points to Christ, Grace bridges the gap we cannot fill.

    If we believe Hebrews 13:8 where it says “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.”; and we believe in the Trinity then I would have to think that we believe the Covenant God made with His people as stated in Deuteronomy 11:13 and elsewhere; “So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today–to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul–” Don’t you then have to believe it is still in place today? Didn’t Jesus say He came to fulfill the law not to change it?

    Just what is this relationship you speak so highly of? God know who I am and so I can live anyway I like? I became a Christian but I don’t have to change? That relationship wouldn’t work with my wife and I’m pretty sure it does not work with God.

    I don’t know about hard or easy, but I am convinced that our lives are changed by the act of the Holy Spirit and as a result we desire to do the works of Him who called us to Himself. It is important to obey His teachings (follow the law) and trust in His Grace, if we are to have any true relationship with Him.

    1. Hey Jonathan,
      thanks so much for making the time and caring enough to join the journey and the dialogue.

      I am fully with you when you say that we need to be doer’s. My point is: our doing, ‘Loving like Jesus loved’ needs to stem/branch from our abiding in Jesus, to use John 15. In my blog I write: “The problem is that we humans also trend toward choosing either or, when what really is needed is both.” We are saved by grace, and that grace inspires us to lay down our lives for one another.

      I never said the law was obsolete, my intention is that law is not where we start our relationship with Jesus. Simple obedience is not a basis of a relationship. What I see far too often, is that people chose the law instead of the being in a relationship with our Savior. Thus, all they have to do is be “good” and hope that their good stuff out weighs their bad stuff. That was my intention when I said that law is easier than “being” in a relationship. Lower down in my blog I write, “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.”

      I teach others and strive myself, to be obedient to our Jesus, to love others as I love myself, because I love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. In my understanding of the scripture, it is Jesus who told us our relationship with God, loving Him with all that we are and have, comes first and it is the greatest commandment.

      Your last question in your post is the most pertinent. This relationship that I speak so highly of is simply this: As I grow closer to my Jesus, I am transformed by His Grace, Goodness, Mercy, Truth, Righteousness, Holiness, to become more like Him. This relationship that I speak so highly of is sanctification.

      I hope this is helpful in clarification, and that I have not muddied the waters for you! Again thanks so much for being willing to dialogue.



  2. I have been allowing other Christians who do things against me or people I love to steal my joy. Rather than staying focused on my relationship with Jesus. I have allowed them to push me away from my relationship and spend my time judging them instead.

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