In order to take advantage of Scripture on a Sunday morning, we “read, mark and inwardly digest” the Word. As I understand the process, digestion involves teeth. And when it comes to naming sin and defeating evil, the Law has *teeth. There’s no mistaking what Law-based preaching and teaching talk about: Behaviors and thoughts that are forbidden, dangerous or ungodly. But what if we remembered that the Gospel also has teeth? That there is as much tangible utility embedded in Good News as there is in condemnations and exhortations about sinfulness.
At the base of this metaphor, this possibility: Both Law and Gospel have teeth; they’re just two different kinds.
The teeth of the Law are like incisors and cuspids that rip and tear apart almost everything they encounter. The proclamation of Law has this primary function: To bring down anything that would harm us. Sharp and pointed, these teeth also prepare fare for the Gospel’s teeth.
The teeth of the Gospel are like pre-molars and molars that pulverize food so that it can be digested and made useful for the body. When Gospel teeth have done their work, swallowing is easier. Perhaps out of sight, Gospel teeth are strong and steady.
What might be some Gospel-teeth words? “You don’t have to be God.” “You’re loved.” “God gives you what you don’t deserve.” “There’s reason for joy.” “Life becomes satisfying as you serve others.” “Death and suffering aren’t the end.” “You are free.” “You’re not alone.” “Fear doesn’t have control of you.” “Your life means something.” “You are forgiven, and you can forgive.”
As you consume the Word of God each Sunday, be ready for both kinds of teeth. And be glad that they work together to help you inwardly digest what’s so important for your life as God’s steward.
*This idiom usually frames a compliment. Something that “has teeth” is sturdy, practical, perhaps even surprising. There doesn’t seem to be a turn of phrase that extols having gums….