I’ve been thinking since Sunday about the covenant I made with the members of Olivet Presbyterian. At the end of the sermon, Pastor Dave read off what God spoke through Moses to the people of Israel in Exodus 19, which says,
You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Exodus 19:4-6a NIV)
And the congregation responded, just as the people of Israel, “We will do everything the Lord has said.”
In seeking to flesh this promise out, I have come across an interesting delimma.
In Romans 12, Paul states,
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18 NIV)
In my current situation, this requires that, to keep some people from possibly falling into sin, I have to eat meat. Now, I know full well that these people don’t buy their meat from the natural food store a few minutes from here and therefore I can rest assured that the animals are not treated or slaughtered in the manner that God demands. I have made a covenant between myself and the local body of believers at Olivet and between myself and God to “do everything the Lord has said.”
Based on God’s law, which I believe includes the commands of the New and Old Testaments both, I can’t do anything that may cause a fellow believer to stumble, and I must seek, as far as it depends on me, to live at peace with everyone. But I am also not, by law, allowed to eat the meat because of how it has been treated while a living animal and how it was slaughtered. Yet, if I don’t eat the food, a fellow believer may fall into sin.
Now, mind you, this is only one example, but I think you get the idea of the tension that I am feeling.
Another example is a law spelled out in Deuteronomy 24.
Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns. Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it…Do not deprive the alien…of justice… (Deuteronomy 24:14-15a, 17a NIV)
But it also states, in Romans again,
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. (Romans 13:1 NIV)
Think about it. Do we “obey the law of the land,” as my mother-in-law would word it, as God commands, or do we give those who are sojourning here what they need to survive, as God commands? It’s a tension.