I thought a few days' time might make me willing to pick up my former series; but as it's a favorite old article of mine I've decided that I want an actual post separating it from my usual 4/1 fooling around. The series will continue next post. In the meantime ...
Our ladies' Bible study group recently studied the Song of Solomon, a poem containing a love story between a man and a woman. I noticed a large percentage of the Bible study was spent focusing on whether the man and woman were married at each different point in the story. The poem itself wasn't focused on that; it was mainly focused on how human love is a part of the big picture of the beauty and fertility of creation, and how right it is to celebrate that. But the Bible study didn't focus on that at all. As a Bible study, it was obligated to focus on the question of whether they were married at each stage ... wasn't it? (For the record: I think that Bible study distorted the teachings of the Bible by focusing on something other than the point the author was trying to make.)
Some people look at the Law of God as a fortress against evil, a stronghold against the attacks of the fallen world. I suppose it is that. Some use it to keep out sin, or to recognize sinners. Those who have tossed aside the law have shown us clearly that without the law's support and protection, peoples' lives -- and whole societies -- become trampled and broken. Some use the law to train people in righteousness -- in particular, learning to choose the ethical and refuse the evil.
But what if that law -- as necessary and good as it is -- is not actually the point of righteousness? If the law is meant as a hedge around us, to make our lives safe and to help our souls flourish, if the law is meant to protect our souls as a wall or a fence protects a garden -- then the point of the wall isn't to have a wall; the fence is not there for its own sake. The point of the fence is to have a garden. We can build the biggest, strongest, most prominent walls, we can fortify it and make it strong in every way we can imagine. And if we spend all our time on the wall, and forget to plant and tend the garden, then we have missed the purpose. We may have the most impressive wall or fence, but it may protect a wasteland.
The more we have something growing, something thriving -- love, for example, or compassion -- the more we'll understand the point of the fence.