"The Adulterer's Bible" and the Three Misuses of the Law

The word ''not'' is such a tiny word, that its accidental omission in a printing of the Bible in 1631 is understandable. After all, the Word of God is perfect, but proofreaders are not. And this slip up might have remained yet one more historical fact worthy of a yawn, were it not made in Exodus 20, and were in not specifically in the Ten Commandments, where the seventeenth century reader came across the rather jarring injunction, ''Thou shalt commit adultery.'' Whoops. And so, that flawed reprinting of the King James edition rightly earned the infamous title of ''The Adulterer's Bible.''

Now if all willful misrepresentations of divine commands were as easy to spot as this accidental one, we might not be so easily deluded by other versions of the law which are fundamentally flawed. But Satan, and the law-twisters he inspires, are usually much more subtle in their approach. There are, at minimum, a triad of ways they seek to undermine divine speech. Let's call these the three misuses of the law.

First, there are the law-shrinkers. This is the tendency of the liberal, the progressive, whose god constantly reevaluates what he requires of people, based upon the cultural, sexual, and political ebb and flow of life in this world. Absolute commands, which demand a wholistic devotion of heart and hand, mind and mouth, generation unto generation, are amended, so that ''thou shalt not'' becomes ''thou shalt not...unless''. The unhappy result is that those who should have been struck by God's law, and brought to repentance, faith, and amendment of life, are left secure in their sin, duped into believing darkness is light.

Second, there are the law-expanders. This is the tendency of the conservative, the religious traditionalist, who endeavors to assist his god by strengthening his commands. They try to out-law the law, to do more than is required, and in a sad irony, ending up breaking the commandments they never kept in the first place. This is the error of the 1st and 21st century Pharisees. For them, ''thou shalt not,'' becomes, ''thou shalt not, and not, and not, and still not.'' If the law-slackers produce impenitent immoralists, the law-expanders breed prideful hypocrites.

The third misuse of the law is the offspring of both shrinkers and expanders, and, in the end, the worst of all. It is the false, misleading dream that a person's relationship with God can begin, continue, or come to fulfillment based upon his obedience to requirements. Relationships just don't work that way. Sons don't become sons by toeing the line, but by being born. So it is with the children of God. But both shrinkers and expanders begin to imagine that they are actually in perfect conformity with divine mandates, and in that delusional state, never realize how much they need a Father and his forgiving, recreative grace.

It is not the ''thou shalts'' and ''thou shalt nots'' that determine our relationship with God, but the Father's declaration, ''Thou art mine.'' Thou art mine because my Son, born under the law, has fully kept the law for you who fully broke it. Thou art mine, for you have been born anew, baptized by water and the Spirit, and in that liquid womb you have become my son, my daughter, heir of all that is mine. There is no need to shrink or expand the Father's ''thou art mine'', for in those three words is declared the perfect love of the Trinity for you.