Not Old, New–1 John 2:8

Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. –1 John 2:8

I’m sitting in my office right now, waiting on a student. Sara, to show up. She needed to meet with me, but her schedule didn’t match up with my office hours. Due to that, I wound up making a special trip to school today, burning up my gas and now twiddling my thumbs as I await her, ever more doubtful, appearance.

There is a plus side to this.  Because I came to school today, I attended a lecture by our visiting scholar, Dr. Monira Soliman, an Egyptian comparative literature professor, who will be teaching my class tomorrow. Yes, I know that you believe listening to an Egyptian comparative literature professor sounds like listening to water evaporate, but it really was interesting. This woman, a Muslim, explained how Islam is represented in various female Muslim writers. She pointed out that many of the stories that come to us from the Middle East are not terribly representative of that culture. Instead, they represent what people want to believe about the Middle East.

Another comment that Professor Soliman made, however, took me back. She suggested that all religions– Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism–are basically alike. Surely she didn’t really mean that. I’m hoping that what she meant (and it is what she later explained) is that all the religions hold a huge number of moral and ethical teachings in common. If they were all the same, then why would Muhammed have been needed to “set the record straight”? In fact, they are clearly not all the same, even in that area of moral-ethical teaching.

For the Christian, however, the difference is profound, a depth hinted at in today’s verse. While the advent of Christ did very little to change the moral codes applying to Gentiles, His coming made a huge difference in the working of those moral codes. In the Islamic world, you must punch your ticket, praying, making pilgrimmage, giving to the poor, and so forth. Judaism has a different ticket, but it too must be punched. For the Hindu and for the Buddhist, still other tickets pertain.

But to the Christian, the ticket is a goal, not a requirement. We have the liberty to strive toward perfection knowing that we have been delivered from needing perfection. The darkness of legalism is passing, and the light is now illuminating an age of grace. That’s a powerful difference.

Sara is now twenty-eight minutes late. I don’t believe she’ll make an appearance.  If I were operating under the old dispensation, I’d hold this failure against her forever, but I can be gracious. Hopefully she’ll do better next time and continue to make progress toward the person God created her to be.

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