Life is not fair. How often did my mom remind me after I returned home from yet another day of childhood injustice?
“I know,” “I know,” I would say, but inside something craved the fairness I adamantly thought I deserved. It is not fair for everyone, but it should be fair for me, I argued with myself. I want the extra helping, the lucky break and the extra provision. I want things I don’t deserve. And yet simultaneously, I want to deserve them.
I had a simple code: mercy for me, justice for them.
Before Jesus arrived, a relationship with God existed in the strict confines of rules, regulations and endless quest for fairness. God existed above. He made a promise with his people, and they broke the promise. They broke it continually. They suffered the consequences, the curses of the rupture. Despite their unfaithfulness, the Lord then gave them the blessings as well.
In this Old Covenant system, people offered regular sacrifices to compensate for their failings. A strict delineation stood between God and his people, a boundary created because of love. Yet only priests could talk with God in the temple and only at specified times. Men took God’s boundaries and added their own regulations. Man’s rules abounded and enclosed this relationship in rigidity, judgment and legalism.
Rules offered guidance in the best ways to live, not a pathway to encounter the Lord. But people cling to the rules and forget the spirit. They believe in formula, “If I do this, then ______.” Rules fail to beget love or incur freedom.
Jesus came. He came to offer this love as a personal messenger. He came to offer freedom. He came not to shatter tradition and destroy the rules, but to impart love in a way we could understand. He gave it a face. He showed it in actions. He distributed it with words. He came to provide an avenue to a relationship with God: love.
This one-word commandment confounds in its simplicity. I can love. Temporarily…incompletely…selectively. Love is hard. Love never reaches completion. We can always do it more and do it better. For a human mind and mortal soul that crave finish lines and endings, I reject the idea of the continual.
I instead choose rules and prescriptions that are measurable and quantifiable. Did I lie? Did I cheat? Did I swear? The list continues endlessly, and I ascertain my value and worthiness based on the answers to these questions.
I miss the point. I reject the freedom of the new covenant and elect the confines of the old. I entangle myself in the web of fairness and regulation. I keep score. What will I do when I realize that the score does not count?
Am I still living within the confines of the law?
What does it look like to live in the New Covenant?
Why do I resist and invoke the rules of the Old Covenant?
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