Must is Silver, Willing is Gold About obligation and willingness in the Christian life
Is it still true, that we “must” do all kind of things?
There are people who are completely turned off by this.
“Must” is not a popular word, and it never was. It has also been much misused which explains the aversion even more.
Believing people just blurt out that they are done with the law. For they read that they are not “under the law” anymore now that they let themselves be guided by the Spirit (Gal. 5:18).
They seem to have a point. And yet, Jesus also says that “not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18).
What do we then make of this?
The Standard of Paradise
Well, actually nothing has changed the law. That is plain to see from the summary that Jesus gives, which Moses gave as well: you shall love God with all your heart and all your soul, with all your strength and all your mind, and you shall love your neighbour as yourself.
If you let the meaning of this penetrate your mind, then you arrive at the standard of walking with God in Paradise. Then we were like this! Now we do not manage to do that anymore, in all (!) our thoughts connected with God, in all (!) our desires wanting the same as he does.
How great the distance has become.
If we were like that, how far have we fallen then.
But even bigger is the surprise that God has saved and kept this standard when he closed Paradise. What was completely lost, he brings back on Mount Sinai, as a special gift.
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” Jesus promises as he explains the law (Matt. 5:48). And you will be with Me in Paradise.
From all this it becomes clear that not an iota or dot has passed or can pass: God has summarized in an ingenious manner what His standard is; in which he wants to walk with us.
God does not have another standard; with him there is no darkness, but only light.
Looking at it this way, we are under the law, still, all the time, all of us. Without repentance and sanctification, no one will see God.
Children Become Adults
And yet, something has changed. Not with the law, but with us. Paul writes about this beautifully when he compares the law with a guardian (Gal. 3 and 4).
A guardian is an educator, placed over growing children who are not yet adults. These children must be controlled, they must learn for example that they ought not to curse or to steal. You can explain that somewhat, but, because they are still children, the guardian remains needed.
This is how it went in the Old Testament. Paul compares that time with the early years of the church. There was already a lot; the believers in that time were heirs, just like us. Yet, they were still immature; they had to simply listen, for there was much they did not yet grasp/understand.
From the outside they were not much different from being a slave, though in principle they were the owners of everything (Gal. 4:1). The emphasis at that time was more on the “must”, though in that the Lord also demanded hearty love.
Look, that has now changed. Through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our hearts we are being led to maturity. An important task of the Spirit is that he now writes God’s commands (which were first written in stone) on our hearts. He was specifically tasked with this (see Jeremiah 31:33, quoted in Hebrews 10:15-18).
In this way he changes the ”must” into “willing”.
Dealing with the Law in a Mature Manner
This brings us to an important notion: the law is not something you “must” deal with, but it is something you are “willing” to deal with.
“Must” belongs to an age and a development that is still in its infancy.
“Willing” shows a spiritual maturity (of having grown up).
Starting with Christ, you look for the best, with love, for God and for your neighbour.
In this manner, you are then no more under the law. Not because the law would be “over and done with”, for that is impossible. But because you yourself have grown. The law does not speak anymore to you from above (as a guardian) but becomes a voice in your own heart.
Fulfilment of the Law
It is remarkable that the fulfilment of the law is being raised in this respect.
Fulfilment is not abandonment. No, exactly the opposite: fulfilment means that the content is being realized.
You fulfill the whole law by loving your neighbour as yourself, is what it says in Galatians 5:14.
And when you do that, led by the Spirit, then you are not under the law anymore (Gal. 5:18). The correlation is clear: when you love sincerely, you are at the core of God’s intentions.
Then you are not anymore under the law (because you must) but you live in it (because you are willing). You are being healed in your character, your desire becomes wholesome.
It is About True Love
The meaning of this is enormous. For there are so many people who seemingly abide by God’s law. They do not steal, they do not curse, they do not harm a fly. At the same time however, it does not matter much to them how things are going with their neighbours. They may live, which is fine, but they may also drop dead, and nowadays we have become used to that. Few people will really be missed.
So, this has nothing to do with love. This love has grown cold.
This also has nothing to do with God’s law or the fulfilment of it.
This is what we see around us.
But what are we doing?
If love is the test, the hearty interest in our neighbours’ well-being, how far do we get with that? No, we must not harm him, we do not do that either.
But do we want to do good to our neighbour? That is the core question.
Do we see who he is, do we question how he is doing, do we want to know if he knows Jesus?
That is the core. Not meant for selected buddies, but truly for your neighbour, without regard for persons. For that neighbour, whom God brings on your path, who can even be repulsive.
Do you question (for yourself) what his/her future looks like? And how you can help with that?
And how much you are willing to give or to help?
The love is from God.
And through God.
And to God.
This love brought Jesus from heaven, to people such as us, lost sons and daughters, without anything to hold on to. Jesus came to win us back and bring us to the Father.
It is About Your Will
The biggest question is not whether you fulfil the law. You are not here for the law, the law is here for you. It is about you.
God’s question is: do you want to be My child? Do you want to live through Me, permeated with My love, so that all those around you will know that I am your Father?
This question rises above the “must”.
The question searches for the I am “willing” from the heart.
That is how you fulfil the law, while you may not even always be conscious of it.
Growth is Permitted
Try it that way, though at times it may be a battle.
This is still the time that you may grow in spiritual maturity. Jesus gives you that space.
For the nice thing is: his fulfilment of the law is already written in your name.
That imputation is there. But what is that imputation without you?
The imputation is like a cloak that wants to be worn, she is a jewel on your head.
You cannot be missed here of course. Or the cloak will be empty, and the jewel will lay on the ground. While it is God’s deepest intention that you wear it eternally.