Saturday, June 27, 2009

Principle or Precept… You decide!

As I consider the Word of the Lord for today (actually tomorrow), my thoughts go back to a conversation I had with God this last week. Oh stop, I’m not the only one that has conversations with God and most of the time I do it out loud.

What we were talking about was the difference between principle and precept. In a nutshell the difference is this. Principles are derived from bits and pieces of wisdom teaching. Not always visible to the naked eye or brain, but they’re there. Often they are a compilation of precepts. Precepts are things that God lists in clear language like commands or admonitions that He expects us to follow or obey.

Law is precept. Yet there are laws buried deep in principles that God gives. If we decide to follow God’s principles, it’s very likely we’ll be following many if not all of His laws. But just because we follow certain precepts or laws, it doesn’t necessarily mean we are living by principle or even wisdom.

Let me go a bit deeper.

As a pastor, teacher, prophet and part time evangelist (not to mention being a husband, father, painter, carpenter, handyman, office manager and all around good guy) life is very compressed for me. I’m tired much of the time and the amount of time that is given to prayer and study of the Word is far less than ideal. As a matter of fact, because I work outside of the church to earn the majority of my living, I’m deeply saddened that I don’t get more time to do such necessary work.

As a result the bottom line is this: Preaching the precepts of God is way easier and requires far less study time than preaching principle(s). Yet herein lays my dilemma. People need far less of God’s precepts as they do His principles. For precepts (dos and don’ts) only go so far. Most often they become prohibitions that we who are religious use to control each others behavior. But it rarely works in the long run. And it’s usually fraught with guilt and condemnation. I think that’s very wrong.

Principles are what people really need to live by (core values maybe). Principles are the why behind God’s precepts. Principles are where the real wisdom of God is found. But principles require a greater amount of time in the depths of God’s gold mine – the Bible, and time on our knees before the thrown of Grace.

Reference, cross reference, compare and contrast, pray, think, write, re-write, pray and pray more and study a bit more. Internalize the Truth you’re mining from the Holy Ghost mother load. Yet all of this TAKES HUGE AMOUNTS OF TIME and EFFORT!!!

So what do I end up doing? I find simple precepts and cast them at my sheep. I don’t know if it helps them live better, but I figure I’m not gonna be held to blame if people don’t know what God expects from them. Right?

But that’s the problem, Jesus took the Law and lived it and fulfilled it. All the precepts of God that are necessary for an eternal and earthly relationship with God are fulfilled in Christ. Can you see the problem I’m dealing with?

Now we need the Wisdom of God that comes as we live by principle and not simple precept alone. Precepts like law will bring death if that’s all we have. Principles become the path by which we travel our lives, the path that leads to life and freedom.

So even as I type these words, my heart is broken. Because less and less of God’s people are learning and living by principle. More and more of God’s precepts are being used, but often to little avail. Oh not because they’re powerless, but because principle is what remains even when we can’t live by precept alone.

Principle keeps me loyal to God, because therein are found the stones on which I can build my life. Therein is found the basis of all our faith. Therein is found the proof of what God teaches in His precepts.

So the next time you opt out for the supposedly easy road of living by Law, stop and ask yourself: WHY would God command me in this manner? Maybe if you ask that question, He will lead you into the principles that uphold the precept. And you will discover that all things are lawful, but not all things are expedient… because principles matter and wisdom is real!

Well I better go find some more principles to bring with me to the pulpit in the morning!

No comments:

Post a Comment