Holley and I had a conversation in the car as we cruised through a parking lot to avoid traffic. You know, that thing that we hate when OTHER drivers do it but love it when it helps us out in our travels. A question hit me: "If it wasn't a law that you have to stop at every stop sign, would you still do it?"
My wife, because I love her, said: "Yes. Of course I would. It's about not killing someone else."
For me, this discussion is the center of the whole discussion regarding Christian spiritual formation. I say "Christian" spiritual formation because, as I've stated before, we all are being formed spiritually - some of us are being sculpted into the likeness of Christ and some of us are modeling clay being handled by a 2-year old. In either case, we're being formed into something.
Jesus really disrupted a pretty good, logical system of relating to God when He came. He messed up a very effective, making-God-happy campaign and He did it with one simple phrase:
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?" Jesus replied: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matt. 22:37-40)
We're wired to need guidelines - restrictions - even as kids we ask "How far can I ride my bike?" We have to have laws at intersections with lights or stoplights so that we'll stop because without the lights or the signs we wouldn't stop. Think about that, we wouldn't stop regardless of what the consequences were to ourselves or others. We may stop sometimes but definitely not all the time.
Basically, Jesus was saying not stopping at the sign isn't illegal anymore - but you need to understand what you're doing and who it affects.
Is this loving God with everything you've got?
Is this loving your neighbor as yourself?
In Jesus mind, everything that had been said up to that point in history about what it meant to be "God's people" and what it looked like to be faithful to Him and Him alone hinged on those two questions.
So, are you looking today for the law that says "stop at the sign" or are you living your life constantly seeking the ways that you can love God with everything you have and love others like you do you yourself?
The one is dead legalism. The other is formation into Christ.
Jesus wants to form a people who act out of love and who are constantly reducing their dependence on laws and commandments by increasing their awareness of love for God and love for others.
Where do you stand today? Would you stop at the sign if you didn't have to?