A Facebook friend recently posted an insightful comment that provokes a discussion: Does God’s love teach us the difference between good and evil? The answer to the question is much deeper than the query itself: it is obvious that at a certain level, the experience of God’s love teaches us simply by virtue of His presence. We see who He is, and we are overwhelmed by His grace toward us as undeserving sinners. It is the orientation point that properly aligns our relationship with God and man; it is the central value from which every other aspect of the Judeo-Christian experience flows.
But we have to ask, “What is the nature of this love—what are the boundaries that shape its character?” And here is where the Torah comes into play. It describes who God is—what He means when He says, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Jesus, of course, is the ultimate and perfect interpretation of the Torah; but even when taking the approach of His earthly life into account, we can still be deceived into falsely ascribing certain characteristics to God’s love when we deliberately divorce it from the Torah. This is how we have arrived at a place where a homosexual truly believes that ‘loving’ his gay partner is godly; that abortion up to and even after birth is not only a right, but a moral imperative; that it is shrewd and perhaps even righteous to avoid our social, ethical, financial, parental, educational, professional, and ecological responsibilities, even to the point of oppressing others; and that ‘self-care’ has become our highest value.
A textbook example was displayed on the ABC series The Bachelorette Sunday night (7/15/19; I do NOT normally watch this show, but happened to catch this clip and was intrigued by the discussion of morality—on a show that has none.) Apparently, the suitor was concerned about the bachelorette’s relationships with the other suitors. He stated that while he understood that they had both sinned in this area of their lives previously, he had committed himself to honoring God’s instructions going forward—to not have sexual relations outside of marriage. He said he would leave the show if she was not similarly committed and had sex with any of the other suitors (keep in mind that both of these people claim to be Christians).
Her response? “…you're questioning me, […] you're judging me and feel like you have the right to when you don't at this point.” “You don’t own me. You’re not my husband.” “I have had sex…yeah. And Jesus still loves me.” As is so often the case, she used the story of Jesus forgiving the woman who was caught in adultery to justify her behavior (John 8:1-11); what was even worse is that the gentleman either did not have the knowledge, the moral resources, or his wits about him enough to remind her of the end of the story, where Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:22-38 describe how the Holy Spirit works inside of us to write the Torah on our hearts in the New Covenant: through our relationship with God, He changes us internally to reflect the morality of the Torah. But many Christian teachers today are saying that the Sinai Covenant (and the Torah which is central to it) was made obsolete by Jesus’ death on the cross; if this is true, there would be no value system to internalize—but this is exactly what they are suggesting in their presentation of the Gospel.
They say that God gave Israel a bunch of rules that nobody could keep except for Jesus, who died so that we wouldn’t have to obey them anymore; now, all one needs to do is believe in Jesus, and God will forgive us and allow us to spend eternity with Him because He loves us and gives us grace no matter what we’ve done or will ever do in the future.
This presents an insanely confusing message to our society, which Generation X, the Millennials, and GenZ are rejecting wholesale as complete hypocrisy. By denouncing the Torah’s continued validity, we have cut ourselves off from understanding God’s love as the transformational power it actually is, selling God’s grace toward us as a ‘golden ticket’—a license to worship our own appetites. Yes, Jesus reconciles us to God through His atoning death, His resurrection, and subsequent eternal high priesthood, which by default eliminates the need for blood sacrifices and the human priesthood called for in the Torah; but this simply allows the Holy Spirit to indwell us in order to complete the transformation of our nature that God has always desired from the very beginning. His ultimate goal is to restore us to His image—to reestablish us as His representatives in the earth. We need to be re-connected to the Torah to allow God’s love to achieve its full transformational effect; but if we decry the Torah as the revelation of God’s holy nature of love, we frustrate and hinder God’s work in us.
This forces us to see the Torah from a different perspective: instead of a body of rules creating a debt that must be paid, the Torah is a picture of God’s righteousness, which is being worked into us by the Holy Spirit. Whereas the Torah shows our lack of righteousness, it also shows what we are becoming because of God’s love being made manifest in us—and that’s a comforting thought!
So, does God’s love teach us? Yes, but only when we understand how His love is defined by the Torah.