In Christian circles we often talk about legalism or “living under the law” vs. “living under grace”.
Those who have been hurt, but have not fully embraced forgiveness, are often looking for justice. It is understandable from a human perspective. Then there is another side to the equation – those, because of their wrongdoings, who are trying to escape justice and receive mercy, or better yet, grace. That too is an understandable position.
- Justice is getting what you deserve
- Mercy is not getting bad things that you deserve (punishment or retribution)
- Grace is getting good things that you absolutely do not deserve (unearned favor)
I really admire those who search the scriptures diligently so that they can fully follow God in the way they conduct themselves in life and relationships. But there is another way that scriptures can be used as well – as a rationalization to punish, control or avoid. This is where loopholes come into the picture.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a loophole as:
- An error in the way a law, rule, or contract is written that makes it possible for some people to legally avoid obeying it.
- A means of escape; especially: an ambiguity or omission in the text through which the intent of a statute, contract, or obligation may be evaded.
Are you looking for loopholes in the scripture to justify your wrong desires or behaviors?
In definition #2 above it clearly states that there is an intent in statutes or laws that is to be understood and followed. This is what law abiding or good-hearted people seek to incorporate into their personal life script. (For purposes of this discussion I am not talking about occasions where man’s laws and God’s laws are in conflict).
- When seeking justice do you ignore the scriptures that call for forgiveness, mercy, turning the other cheek (and many more) in favor of “an eye for an eye”?
- When trying to justify immoral sexual behaviors do you minutely examine words like “fornication” or “purity” or others hoping that God’s intent for us as Christians has been incorrectly interpreted by the church for centuries?
- When wanting to blame, shame, criticize or control someone do you quote scriptures that speak about ‘iron sharpening iron” or “faithful are the wounds of a friend” or “confronting sin”? Are you truly concerned for them, or are you really trying to exercise power over them?
The Bible tells us that God is concerned about our hearts out of love for us. When our hearts aren’t right, our lives and our world is not right. Matters of justice are tricky and best left for God to deal with. It is said that we want justice for others, but mercy and grace for ourselves. So, are you most interested in the “letter of the law” or “the intent of the law”?
Loopholes are our way of trying to return power and control to ourselves (leaning on our own understanding) instead of trusting that God’s ways are good.