I recently listened to the lecture of a Jewish rabbi who explained at length that Jewish and Christian people part ways not only over the New Testament, but over a large body of oral law which he said is essential to Jewish faith.
According to this teacher, most if not all laws of written Scripture pose a problem to the person who wants to obey God. He went on to give examples of how what is written in the Hebrew Scripture leaves the reader with all kinds of questions about how to actually carry out in specific and practical terms what God is requiring. For example, he read the Shema of Israel (Deut 6:4-9) part of which requires Israel to write something on their hands as a sign of what God is requiring of them. Yet what they are actually to write on their hands is not specified. His explanation is that the written Hebrew Scriptures are like notes that require an understanding of all that God orally revealed to Moses.
People of the New Testament have a similar problem with most if not all of the challenges given to us. Like the people of Israel we are told to love our neighbor as ourselves as an expression of whole-hearted love for God. While we may have a pretty good sense of some of the things we should not do, how can we know for sure what God does want us to do or to say so as to love our neighbor as ourselves?
If we were as good and as insightful as God, we would know the answers to all of these questions.
So, what I’m hoping we can talk about is—how, in specific and practical terms— are we to live, love, be joyful, grateful, patient hearers of our God? And will the answer to such a question help us focus on and explain the distinct mark and nature of the good news that has changed us?