Thursday, October 05, 2006

A New Law

I like easy answers.

I don't know about you, but I've had plenty of times when I wish everything were black and white. Of course, I still believe some things are black and white. But when I got to college, I discovered that perhaps when it comes to the peripheral issues of faith, there's a whole lot more gray than I realized or cared to deal with.

There's usually one song on every new album that strikes me first. It's the first one I loop endlessly on repeat until I have all the words memorized. For Derek Webb's Mockingbird, it's "A New Law":

don’t teach me about politics and government
just tell me who to vote for
don’t teach me about truth and beauty
just label my music
don’t teach me how to live like a free man
just give me a new law
i don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy
so just bring it down from the mountain to me
i want a new law
i want a new law
just gimme that new law
don’t teach me about moderation and liberty
i prefer a shot of grape juice
don’t teach me about loving my enemies
don’t teach me how to listen to the Spirit
just give me a new law

I believe this could be the theme song for my alma mater. For that matter, I believe it could be the theme song for a whole lot of Christians--including myself at times. Wrestling with issues like politics and art and liberty and justice is hard. It'd be a whole lot easier if someone just told me what all the "right" choices are. Then I wouldn't have to think for myself. Then I wouldn't have to actually interact with a living God who speaks to His children--I could keep a safe distance.

Wouldn't it be a whole lot easier if we got an itemized list of the dos and don'ts? Wouldn't it be easier if the New Testament were bullet points? And isn't that what we in the church try to do, with all of our guidelines about holiness and morality and expected behaviors? How many of us have wished for skywriting about an important decision, rather than plodding tentatively but courageously through the lessons which are the whole point of the journey? We want someone to spell it out for us because rules are easier than relationship. They require less of us.

But as Webb asks,

what’s the use in trading a law you can never keep
for one you can that cannot get you anything?

Easier, maybe, but dead--not life-giving. The law cannot give life. The Spirit gives life. "What the law was powerless to do...God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering" (Romans 8:3).

The New Testament doesn't go into a litany of specifics about detailed behavior control because that's not where the power is. That's missing the point. It was the Pharisees who felt a delicious sense of control and self-righteousness through a mindset of "I can follow this list and thereby earn favor." We all know how that turned out.

The fact remains that our self-righteousness is empty and insufficient. And we are not in control. A detailed list of extra-biblical rules leaves no room for the Spirit to work on hearts. It casts shadows on the beauty of the higher law--the law of love. God doesn't just want our behavior...He wants our hearts.

Have you listened to this song? Did you like it? Hate it? What do you think of the lyrics I've posted here? Add your two cents in the comments below...

1 comment:

Jules said...

It is my character to just do what I'm told and not ask questions. It's easier that way. I like easy. It seems, perhaps, that "easy" sometimes equals my life anyways.