We are going to make The Big Red Button – and see who cannot resist! This is a great starter for discussion in church, youth group or Bible study, but perhaps not so good for younger children!
You will need:
- Mirror tile or plain white tile
- Thick black permanent marker
- Red lipstick
Use a lid to draw a circle in the lower middle of the tile. Above it, write ‘DO NOT TOUCH!’ in big letters. Fill in the circle with a thick layer of lipstick and touch up the outline as necessary.
Place the ‘button’ in a prominent place where people will walk past. You might like to keep a stealthy watch to see who cannot resist touching. Put the tissues nearby because lipstick can be hard to remove from fabric.
When you start your session, ask who touched the button, and why.
Thou Shalt Not!
Before I met God, that was my impression of Christianity: a load of rules and a wagging finger. I guess there are plenty of other folks who see Christianity like that. It’s not surprising. Many churches have The Ten Commandments in a prominent place on the wall, and it’s one of the best-known parts of the Bible. Thou shalt not!
So if God is all about rules, how come Jesus was so hard on the rule-keeping Pharisees? Weren’t they just doing what they were supposed to do? Keeping to the rules. Not walking on the grass.
It’s all to do with The Big Red Button. You know the one – Wile E. Coyote sets it up, hoping that Roadrunner will be so intrigued that he’ll stop long enough to be caught. Roadrunner looks, pauses, presses button and speeds away. Wile E. checks that The Big Red Button is working, presses it, and get clobbered by the anvil / piano / ton of bricks. You know the drill.
There is something about The Big Red button that makes us want to press it – especially if a sign says not to. We see a ‘Caution – Do Not Enter’ sign and immediately wonder what’s in there. The forbidden is perversely so attractive. Would cake be nearly such a treat were it not bad for us? I never hear of anyone putting candles on their birthday tube of toothpaste!
This is what Paul was talking about when he said, “I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’” (Rom.7:7) That is what all the rules on the Old Testament are for. They’re like a dental disclosing tablet, a spiritual x-ray. They show up the problem.
The Law was never there to get us unto heaven. It’s not a check list: ‘do all these and God will be pleased with you’. That’s not how it works, No-one could earn their way to heaven. Not then. Not now. That’s why Jesus so often had a go at The Pharisees. It wasn’t because they were trying to follow the rules, it’s because they thought the rules were the way to God.
This was not news when Jesus said it. All through the Old Testament prophets had been churning out the refrain: 1 Sam. 15:22, Isa. 1:11, Hos. 6:6, Amos 5:21, Mic 6:6-8 – ‘Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams? […] He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. […] To walk humbly with your God.‘
The rules never were the way to God. The rules were there to show us just how far we’d strayed, so that we would turn to God for help. Just look at them, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart’, etc. Seriously? Could anyone ever really do that?
The point of the rules is not that God is a killjoy and wants to stop us enjoying life, it is the exact opposite. God wants us to see that ticking the boxes is not going to work. We can’t do this on our own. We need help. The rules are there to make us turn to God. And THAT’S when life begins.
Jesus promised this new life in paradise to the thief in the cross – he was not exactly a box-ticker! But he knew his failure and turned to Jesus for help. He walked humbly with Jesus right through those pearly gates.
So here in our passage we see Jeremiah spelling it out. The Law written in stone is not the solution. It never was. It’s not that the Old Testament is the covenant of Law and the New Testament is the covenant of Grace – it always was Grace. Right from the start. This always was Plan A. It was there right back in Eden too. God provided clothes to cover Adam and Eve after their disobedience cost them paradise. It was their own stupid fault and God was kind to them anyway. Grace.
This always was Plan A.
Am I unconsciously trying to earn my way to heaven by ticking boxes?
although it will take me a lifetime to fully understand,
help me to grasp a shred of this truth:
there is nothing I can ever do that will make you love me more,
there is nothing I can ever do that will make you love me less.
You love me because you love me because you love me,
and that is all.
Jeremiah 31:27-34 Living Bible
The Lord says: The time will come when I will greatly increase the population and multiply the number of cattle here in Israel. In the past I painstakingly destroyed the nation, but now I will carefully build it up. The people shall no longer quote this proverb—“Children pay for their fathers’ sins.” For everyone shall die for his own sins—the person eating sour grapes is the one whose teeth are set on edge.
The day will come, says the Lord, when I will make a new contract with the people of Israel and Judah. It won’t be like the one I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a contract they broke, forcing me to reject them, says the Lord. But this is the new contract I will make with them: I will inscribe my laws upon their hearts, so that they shall want to honor me; then they shall truly be my people and I will be their God. At that time it will no longer be necessary to admonish one another to know the Lord. For everyone, both great and small, shall really know me then, says the Lord, and I will forgive and forget their sins.
Living Bible (TLB)
The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.