When Proposition 8 passed in 2008, banning gay marriage in California, there were many people, especially in Hollywood, who expressed their condemnation of the state amendment. There was no one who communicated his or her disapproval more winsomely and humorously than Jack Black in Prop 8: The Musical, which has been viewed over 8 million times.
The scene contrasts a group of unhappy, rule-following Bible thumpers with a happy, joyful, and brightly dressed group of normal, irreligious types. Jesus, played by Jack Black, shows up to settle the debate about the Bible and homosexuality. With a shrimp cocktail in hand, he explains that while the Bible may condemn homosexuality, “It says the exact same thing about this shrimp cocktail; Leviticus says shellfish is an abomination.” Black pops a shrimp into his mouth as he sings, “Friend, it seems to me you pick and choose. Well, please choose love instead of hate.”1
Why does it seem like Christians pick and choose the parts of the Bible people must obey while ignoring other laws in the Bible?
The Bible does warn believers to be careful about how they use their tongue to speak about those created in the image of God. “With it, we bless our Lord and Father, and with it, we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:8–10).2 The Bible does not justify Christians acting hatefully towards others. Christians are commanded to “love their neighbors as themselves.”
The Bible is not shy in condemning evil nor warning about the dangers of suppressing or rejecting the truth about God and His ways. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18).3 The Bible warns, “Those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger” (Romans 2:8).4
Christians should never attack or dehumanize other people regardless of their lifestyle or choices. Sinful living, as well as self-righteousness, are both dehumanizing and destructive enough by themselves. Nonetheless, it is never loving to change or suppress the truth communicated in God’s Word. Rather than being flippant with the Bible, it is more loving to make every effort to humbly, accurately, and consistently interpret the Bible and live according to the truth God has revealed in it.
So how can a person understand the Old Testament laws and regulations? When people refer to the law of God, this is usually a reference to a specific part of the Bible, the Torah. The Torah contains the first 5 books of the Bible which are also referred to as the Mosaic Law or the Pentateuch.
The question for many is how can laws, written 2,000 to 3,500 years ago, be relevant in our current time and place? Many rules and regulations seem far removed from application to our day-to-day lives. For instance, one chapter in Leviticus says certain sexual actions and preferences are wrong, and then the next chapter prohibits mixing two different threads in one’s clothing.
If Jesus was all about love and acceptance, it may be important to consider how He viewed the laws found in the Old Testament. These same laws were taught and lived out by Jesus in the first century. Like all faithful first-century Jewish men. Jesus made it clear that He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17-19). Jesus also warned against those who relaxed any part of the law. Throughout the life and teaching of Jesus–and within the writings of His disciples contained in the New Testament–we find some important distinctions made about the Law.
The New Testament reveals Jesus to be God. ”In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1–3).5 Jesus (God the Son) preexisted with God the Father before anything existed. All of Creation–including humanity and the Mosaic Law contained in the Old Testament– have come into being through Jesus. This is important to consider when evaluating if Jesus affirmed the Old Testament. Jesus not only affirmed the Old Testament, but He was also involved in the revelation of the Law.
Jesus’s authoritative understanding of the Law did not go unnoticed as He finished the Sermon on the Mount. “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at His teaching, for He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Mt 7:28–29).6
Jesus, being God, was involved in the writing of the verses that defined sexuality–and even defined the shrimp that was mentioned. The difficulty comes in understanding why Jesus sometimes spoke of parts of scripture as “fulfilled,” while at other times, He added greater weight to verses as He applied them not just to actions but also to motives of the heart. Jesus was constantly quoting and affirming the authority of the Bible while bringing new clarity and understanding to things once hidden.
To understand how Jesus used and viewed the Laws contained in the Old Testament, it is important to understand its parts. The Law had three distinct parts which included the Ceremonial, the Civil, and the Moral Law.
Jesus fulfilled the Ceremonial Law in His life, death, and resurrection. The Civil Law communicated God’s will regarding a just and righteous society. Jesus made it clear to show respect to the government as being ordained by God and to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).7 The Moral Law was– and is– affirmed by Jesus as still relevant and binding.
Jesus was not in the business of giving laws and regulations to people to weigh them down and deprive them of all joy. Jesus had compassion and love for the most wicked and sinful prodigal. Jesus desired for all people– regardless of their lifestyle or past– to repent, believe in him, and have new life.
Jesus came to a fallen and broken world to set people free from the bondage of sin, including heterosexual and homosexual sin, as well as the bondage of living under the law. “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).8
If we want to “choose love not hate,” we should love God and our neighbor enough to take the time to understand and then act on the truth that sets people free.
Follow this link to continue to Part 2 for a greater understanding of the Old Testament Law.
-Written by David Anglin | August 7, 2020
1 https://www.funnyordie.com/2008/12/2/17706942/prop-8-the-musical-starring-jack-black-john-c-reilly-and-many-more. Dec 2, 2008.
2 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), James 3:8–10.
3 Ibid, Romans 1:18.
4 Ibid, Romans 2:8.
5 Ibid, John 1:1–3.
6 Ibid, Matthew 7:28–29.
7 Ibid, Matthew 22:21.
8 Ibid, John 8:31-32.