There are a couple of ways of saying this.
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” reads Philippians 2:5-8.
In the New Testament of the Bible, Jesus Christ is the key. He humbled himself as a suffering servant for the benefit of humanity. By this free gift of grace, we have been saved. So, in thanksgiving, we are to be imitators of Christ. By doing so, we look outside of ourselves in the interest of others.
What do we do with the Old Testament then? Do we simply disregard it?
Jesus did not come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it, so the law remains. By doing so, we again are called to look outside of ourselves in the interest of others. For example, the Ten Commandments are relational in their nature; in part, they were given for social order that benefits everyone.
So, no matter what the motivation, we are called to treat others well. It does not matter if such acts spawn from legal requirements or as holy opportunities in response to grace. What matters is that you arrive at that particular destination. That place is marked by getting beyond oneself, to be mindful of the care of others, and to act accordingly.
So you could say that God has got us either way. The message is the same. It does not matter if you are coming or going. It does not matter how you slice and dice it, or even puree it in a blender. We could thinly flatten it out, or roll it up tightly into a ball. We might place it high or put it low. It doesn’t matter. It remains the same substance.
So whether it is delivered through law or gift of grace, the message remains the same. Care for one another.
Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and has served as parish pastor for more than 25 years.