One of my FaceBook friends got into an argument, which played itself out in her comments. It involved civil marriages for gays. Yes, this is a hot button issue, but this post isn't about that. It's about what happened in the argument.
My friend is for allowing civil marriages, and it wasn't long before others jumped in with opposing viewpoints. Very quickly Biblical scripture started being tossed back and forth.
And that's what I want to focus on. Because, for the most part, the scripture being quoted against civil marriages came from the Old Testament, especially Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
What's the significance of that?
Those two books are the ones that lay down the foundation of Hebraic law. The Ten Commandments first appear in Exodus, but they're repeated and expanded upon in Deuteronomy. That's the book that goes into the "shalt nots" in detail, along with punishments, reparations, and other aspects of civil law.
Leviticus is more of a handbook for priests, and so is more concerned about the details of worship, sacrifices, holy days, and religious law. It too has plenty of detail about what's allowed, what isn't, and the punishments for the latter.
In the New Testament, Jesus somewhat simplifies things.
When asked which was the greatest commandment (out of all the body of religious law), he said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:34-40).
Jesus got into trouble for many things, such as associating with those who the religious law proscribed as unclean and undesirable, breaking the Sabbath, not observing all the rules and customs and so on. His actions as well as his words showed that Jesus was more concerned with the spirit, rather than the letter of the Law.
And which Law was that, exactly? See the quote above.
So in a way, using Old Testament law to determine Christian behavior is like using an outdated copy of a statute to argue a case in court. Doesn't matter what the rule used to be, what is it now? The Old Testament's definitely important, because it provides context for the New. But if I really want to use scripture to guide my actions, then the New Testament's the place I look.