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Archive for April 13th, 2011

“I hope this isn’t meant to be a criticism of our current life style”

In this cartoon from The New Yorker Magazine that I quote above, we see  people drinking, swilling gin, gambling, a motorcycle gang, businessmen,  suggested adultery, etc.  I would guess that given the sins shown it is from circa the 1960s: we  might say that those ‘sins’ are now so jejune and passé.  WE could add a lot more now.  Our public corruption has become more sophisticated… and debased.  For instance:  no one  shown shooting up, either say heroin or steroids. A question:  How come at least a cartoonist in The New Yorker got it right and in many a Christian denominations, we don’t?  Yes, the Law of God is a criticism (at least!) of our current life styles…but how dare anyone foist his morality on me!  Well, the Lord does and we know  He is true in His Word deep inside.

This gets to this teaching in  Lutheran theology:  the third use of the Law.  The first two uses:  1. the political use is to protect each other externally from each other and ourselves and is copied in civil law.  2. The spiritual use is used by the Lord to show us our sin and so our need for the Savior.  The third use shows if our “life-styles” are God pleasing. Back to the cartoon, for instance,  is it wrong to ride a motorcycle?  Of course, not!  Is it wrong to drink?  No…but getting drunk is not good. C. S. Lewis writes that sin is like incorrectly playing a piece of  music.  One may realize he made a mistake in playing and say, I played the wrong note. But Lewis wrote, there are no wrong notes, just notes played at the wrong time.  For instance, physical love between a husband and wife is a good from the Lord, but doing so with prostitute is definitely the good note played at the wrong time.  Earning a living, enjoying a motorcycle, playing cards, etc are good things.   I think for myself this gets at meaning of the phrase, “life-style”:  that is,when one of these behaviors becomes quite literally our way of life, that somehow these activities become our life, from which we expect our, “…help and consolation from creatures, saints or devils” (Luther, The Large Catechism, 1st commandment).  Then we have another god, not the Lord Who is the Life of all the living, and the death of death our foe.

If we do not teach and preach the Law of God in our Churches, then how may the Gospel ever heard?  Indeed, as the Lord taught:

Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

-St. Matthew 5: 19


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