“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” – Jesus as recorded in Matthew 16:18-19 (NRSV)
Does your faith bind you or loose you? During Jesus’ time, the Pharisees had the authority and responsibility to use the Law to bind (forbid) or loose (permit).1 They could declare special days of fast and pronounce or revoke an anathema upon a person. An anathema is defined as a person or thing detested or loathed or consigned to damnation or destruction or a formal ecclesiastical curse involving excommunication.2 They could pronounce judgment on a person… declare them unworthy of the Kingdom.
Jesus gave this same power to bind or loose to His disciples (Matthew 16:19). The Gospels are filled with Jesus’ teaching about how to use the authority to bind or loose correctly. For instance, the twenty-third chapter of Matthew contains a strong message about religious hypocrisy. In verses 13-38, Jesus pronounced seven woes against the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. Before pronouncing the His seven woes, Jesus said:
“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. – Matthew (23-1-4, NIV)
Jesus was hard on the Pharisees and teachers of the law because they were not using their authority to bind or loose correctly. Jesus message was not just for the disciples and teachers of the Law of His day. Jesus words were for us too. As I have reflected on Jesus teaching in Matthew 23, and the concept of binding and loosing, I have been asking myself some tough questions. Do my words or actions shut the door of the Kingdom of God in people’s faces? Am I focused winning converts so that I can conform them into my image when they have already been created in the image of God? Am I more concerned with following the letter of the Law than extending justice, mercy and faithfulness to others? Do I wear my faith for others to see or does my faith wear me?
Jesus came to bring life and to set people free, not to bind them to Hell. Yes, the Bible is very clear that there will be a final judgment, and that we will all be held accountable for our actions and acceptance or rejection of the Gospel. The Bible teaches that eternal life is found through Christ, and Christ alone.
The problem is not Jesus or the Law..it’s us. Are we making it easier or harder for people to see the love and Grace of Christ through our words and actions? Is the church using its authority to bind and loose in the way that Jesus would? These are very tough questions. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to help His church bind and loose according to His authority. The Pharisees and teachers of the Law made were making it more difficult for people to find their way back to God. Jesus came to show them the Way. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). A Rabbi’s yoke was his teaching and interpretation of the Law. So I have to ask. Who’s yoke are we wearing?