Thursday, October 9, 2008

Freedom and Law

We usually think of law as something that constrains us. In particular, Christians tend to consider God's law (as given in the Old Testament) a burden, in that it is a standard we can never succeed in fully attaining by our own effort. The law feels like a cause for fear, a prison of rules and regulations, a list of barriers that must be surmounted.

But in Psalm 119, the law is something else entirely. I especially liked verse 32: "I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free." Here, the law is a path cleared for us through the wilderness of the world, which sets us free from the struggle to move forward and find direction. Moreover, "the path of your commands" is one we can run on. What kind of path would someone run on? Not on a path with traps set in it; not on a badly marked path, or a dark path; not on a path toward doom; not on a path with no known destination. You run with a light heart when you know where you're going and how to get there, and you want to get there. To the psalmist, the law is direction and guidance, and freedom. In following God's law--in running on God's law--he finds his heart free. . .

I would like to have a free heart.

Looking elsewhere in Psalm 119, the law is something that wards off shame (6, 46), that leads us to God himself (10), that is worth more than money (14, 72), that shows God's love (64), that gives delight (24), makes us sing (54), grants comfort (52), gives hope (43, 47, 74), strengthens (28). . . These are all such good things--not just in the sense of "morally edifying", but genuinely desirable. Freedom, joy, delight, comfort: not judgment and condemnation.

"Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law." (v. 18) This is how I want to look at the law--not as a duty but as a gift and privilege.

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