In the beginning there was one Word. One rule. One voice. One law. One “don’t do this”—surrounded by beauty, truth, and goodness.
Yet there was more in the wonder than the eye could see.
The one “don’t do this”— became a compellingly dark hole, an irresistible pull, offering the right language and leverage— to test the freedom of a beautifully ordered life.
In the chaos that followed, the one rule became many, and then more, and still more until the world was filled with rules, and laws, and regulations that seemed to be made— just for the breaking.
Who could have predicted? Even the best and briefest of laws, engraved on stone, by the finger of God— were quickly thrown on the ground and shattered—by Moses.
We know our history. A few weeks after the Exodus, a newly born family state agreed to a social contract of law and order. In the shadow of Sinai, the will and voice of the people was heard unanimously voting to keep all of the laws given to them. 40 years later, their children repeated the promise in the presence of Joshua on the threshold of a Promised Land. Centuries later, after seeing what happens when everyone does what seems right in their own eyes— and after demanding a king who would be more to their liking than one they couldn’t see—another generation promised to do everything God told them to do.
The social unraveling that always followed eventually ran its course. Proud law makers on the right and powerful enforcers on the left—joined by the force of reason to unwittingly kill the only One who had ever loved them.
Messengers of the unforeseen miracle that followed announced that the way forward would not be by law—but in the spirit, and by the Spirit—of a new liberty—“against which there is no law”.
The main spokesperson for the New Way was as much of a surprise as his message. As a former expert in rabbinic law, Paul knew that good laws have their place and use. He knew even someone as flawed Caesar was needed. But he’d experienced a way of understanding law—and grace— that he, and a growing number of other fresh voices were willing to die for.
Consumed by all that he had come to see in climactic events of Jesus, Paul became the one to tell us that while all things are now lawful, and while we are no longer under law, the new way offers truth, goodness, beauty, and wonder—against which there is no law.
So am I just imagining it? Or are people like us—who think we “get “ this New Testament way of life—still inclined to turn a list of what we can’t do—like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control—into Old Testament-like rules of “do this!”
Love. Look on the bright side. Don’t worry. Be patient. Be nice. Be good. Keep your word. Go easy. Just do it!!! Until realizing to our own betterment that— we haven’t, and still can’t.