Monday, March 30, 2015

True but not totally – Raja Petra’s article on “Why Christians oppose Hudud.”

Quite impressive Raja Petra’s quotations of the Bible and his understanding of history; particularly Biblical history in the article here:   I am not sure if I could do the same with the Quran and provide that level of understanding.  Shame on me.

Allow me however as inadequate as I am and as brief as possible to make more accurate his understanding of the Bible and the Ten Commandment laws.  Christians have not abandoned the Ten Commandments nor the Old Testament laws of the Bible as suggested by Raja Petra in his write up. In fact Christians are held to a standard higher than just obeying or fulfilling the written law. Jesus said in Matthew 5
21“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,a and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sisterb c will be subject to judgment. 
Or  on adultery
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’e 28But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

In other words, Jesus was telling the religious people of those days, don’t just obey the laws for the law sake but for goodness sake. Your heart has to be right. God didn’t just demand obedience to the law but a right heart attitude. This was his beef with the religious teachers when he said:
27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

Now how many of us can claim to have a perfect heart attitude 100% of the time?  Yet God demands this of us. Throughout Jewish history, the problem was always in the inability to keep God’s laws and to maintain His most holy standards.  In fact this problem has been a problem throughout human history. 
 However God did not set the bar so high only to leave us to fail. What was God’s solution to man’s problem of failing to keep His laws?  He provided a solution.  This solution was planned a long time ago and revealed to the Jews in the Old Testament:
This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.”
Jeremiah 31:33-34

God sought to have a relationship with His people and found a way to forgive His people from their sins. This was through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah. Jesus paid the penalty of man’s consistent failure in keeping the Ten Commandments and the laws. In dying for His people, He also gave them a new heart, one that would love Him and desire to obey Him from the heart.

So Raja Petra is wrong to say that Christians are ashamed and abandoned what God had commanded them to do.  It would be more accurate to say that Christians are eternally grateful that God, in His mercy and grace had covered over their failures in obeying the law and helped them to obey the law from their hearts.

The second misinterpretation of Raja Petra’s article is in the word “Kingdom” or “Basillea” in Greek.  He is right that this was central to Jesus teaching but he is wrong in concluding that Jesus meant it to be a theocratic state or nation.  If it was, then he failed in his mission since he was crucified before he could establish the Jewish state free from Roman rule. This was also the Jewish people’s error.  Instead Jesus said:
 "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; 21nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!' For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst." Luke 17:21
For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17

In other words what the Bible teaches us is that the kingdom of God is not a physical geographic location but a kingdom of people who knows Jesus and follows Him.  It is a rule or authority where God is their king. It is not a statehood or a nation with boundaries.  It is a sphere of influence of good over evil, of righteousness and justice, of humility and love. The Kingdom of God is best described in Jesus parables of Matthew 13. The Kingdom of God  Jesus says is like a little mustard seed or a little yeast in a bowl of flour. It starts off small, in reference to the age we live in today as Christians but eventually it has great influence.  The Kingdom of God has been established through Jesus life and death here on earth. Christians belong to this kingdom and we live our values and purpose in allegiance to God as King. We do not seek a physical territory for we await our heavenly place which Christ had promised he would prepare. 

As such, Christians ought to make good citizens.  For in living in obedience and allegiance to our King and Lord we are to obey Him and live like Him, displaying His very nature. Seeking justice for the poor, marginalized, widowed and orphans.(Matt 25:40, Deuteronomy 10) Loving our enemies and praying for them.(Luke6:27) Submission to governing authorities and paying our taxes.(Romans 13) To do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly (Micah6:8).

Let me then try to answer Raja Petra’s question which he did not answer. Why then do most Bible believing Christians reject the Hudud law?
In short because there is no one who would be able to successfully obey these laws a hundred percent of the time. Adultery?  Well did you look at a woman lustfully?  Robbery?  Well did you covet your neighbour’s Mercedes?  God doesn’t just want us to be fearful of the consequence of the offense because that does not bring about a change in heart attitude. I do not just want my child to learn that I will spank him if he lies but I want him to learn that his lying will hurt people around him and himself. If all he is afraid off is my punishment then when I am not looking or when I am not around he would commit the offense.

If Hudud is God’s law then I believe God is more concern with our hearts than purely our actions