Random Blog Clay Feet: July 17, 2008
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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ambulance or Fence?

When I was growing up I remember a story that was a favorite of some teachers as well as my own Dad who used to like to tell it in defense of the validity of God's law. As the story goes, there was a high cliff near a town where people liked to go and hang out because the view was so striking. You could see the whole city and beyond from this high vantage point and it was often frequented by lovers who like to sit and watch the sunset while holding hands and savoring the beauty surrounding them. (O.K., maybe I made part of that last bit up.)

But there was also a problem with this high cliff. Every once in awhile someone would fall off the edge of this cliff and would sustain serious injuries or even death after striking the rocks at the bottom of the cliff. Because of this a great debate developed among the people of this town over what should be done about this serious problem.

Some of the people insisted that an ambulance and a crew should be stationed at all times at the base of the cliff so that if anyone happened to fall that they would have immediate attention and could be rushed to the hospital in time to prevent them from dying if possible. But other people said that was a silly idea and that instead the city should build a strong fence along the top of the cliff so that people simply could not fall off the edge.

As the story goes, this debate became very intense and heated and caused a lot of strive and division among the people of this great town. Finally it was decided that the best thing to do was to station the ambulance and crew at the bottom of the cliff. Of course the story was told this way to illustrate the fallacy in the teachings of many denominations that all we need is grace and forgiveness and the law no longer applies to our lives today. Of course the assumption in the telling of this story was that the law acted like the fence at the top of the cliff to prevent people from hurting themselves.

This story certainly had its intended impact on many people's thinking including my own. But as I thought about it this evening something puzzling began to develop in my heart about this story and I realized that once again I have come across a tradition that has tended to mislead my thinking in regard to law and the principles of reality.

For instance, why did it never come up in the purported debates by the townspeople that the law of gravity should be suspended so that no one would get hurt if they happened too close to the edge of the cliff? After all, wasn't it really the fault of gravity that people got hurt in this way to start with? Yes, I realize that for humans this is not a realistic option and that is why it did not enter into their discussions. But as I think about it now I realize that the nature of true law is more along the line of principles like gravity instead of along the line of arbitrary rules and artificial restraints with attached punishments. Therefore, to use the analogy of the fence to prevent people from walking off the edge of a cliff as the thing to represent God's Law is to miss the main point that gravity itself is much more representative of God's Law than an arbitrary fence is.

But this is the nature of human thinking and we see the outgrowths of it everywhere we turn. We are forever coming up with more and more rules, restraints, barricades, walls and control mechanisms in our attempt to manipulate human behavior while largely ignoring the true problem which is usually immaturity. We are destroying the very beauty and freedoms placed in this earth by God for human enjoyment in the name of safety and security. We are selling our souls to those in power for the false promise of security and will wake up too late to find that we have only sold ourselves into abject slavery – and all in the name of law and order.

So let me go back to the fence and cliff idea. Let's just suppose that the argument was won by saner heads and the typical strong fence was installed keeping people well back from the edge of the cliff. Now since we are so used to seeing such installments nearly everywhere commercialization has invaded nature we don't think too much of this arrangement. But as a person who has enjoyed hiking in places where such restraints have not yet been imposed on the awesome scenes of wonder I can tell you that such barricades spoil to a very great extent the wonder and awe that such places tend to inspire when in the raw.

Most of the time these restraints are imposed on the public due to fear of lawsuits. As most people know our world is fast becoming shaped largely by the greed of lawyers who have more power to manipulate people's choices than nearly anyone else on earth. Our addiction to using laws and statutes and regulations to impose control over everyone around us and to fix every imaginable problem and many that don't even exist, is fast becoming not only ridiculous but suffocating. And unfortunately we believe that we are simply following the example of God who we suppose has imposed similar laws and punishments in order to manipulate and control His subjects. Thus we come up with illustrations like the one above to explain why God's laws are so necessary.

So the people have a barricade put up on the top of the cliff and everything is now just fine – right? Well, that depends on who you listen to. If you take the version put forth by the lawyers and the ones in power then you might come to that conclusion. But if you talk to the people who no longer can sit on the edge of the cliff arm and arm with their lover and watch the sun slip behind the horizon and listen to the birds and feel the warm breeze on their faces without artificial impositions obstructing their view; if you talk to the people who live more from their hearts than by a list of rules and enjoyed this special place but are forced by threat of arrest to stay away from this favorite spot, you might get quite a different story.

For you see, the real problem is not that there are not enough rules to prevent people from getting hurt but that there are people who have not been raised in a proper family that mentored them to use common sense and take reasonable precautions while learning to enjoy life to the max. You have people who are irresponsible and thoughtless and immature who are looking for attention or simply not paying attention who create these problems that society takes upon themselves to solve.

Now I'm not claiming that there is no need for rules or no place for artificial restraints. Paul makes it very clear in his writings that the “law” was given for those who are immature until they are grown enough to live in harmony with the underlying principles of the law. The problem is, in our world now there is very little maturing going on and a great deal of controlling going on instead. The way things are set up now actually works against encouraging people to mature and instead induces them to remain in very immature conditions while they blindly follow rules created by other quite immature people.

Maturity has to do with learning how to live in harmony with the natural principles of reality. We sometimes call some of these principles natural law and other ones we call spiritual laws. But really they are all one and the same thing, just showing up in different venues. All of God's principles are laws if you want to use that word and all of the external laws throughout the Scriptures are based on eternal principles although some of them were more localized to specific cultures or situations that no longer are useful today. But the underlying principles or laws are eternal and permanent in nature and cannot really be broken. Its like the “law” of gravity – you don't break that law but it certainly has the potential to break you if you violate it in the wrong way.

So I propose that neither the ambulance nor the fence is the ideal way to resolve the issue of people falling off a cliff. Neither is believing that all we have to do is believe that Jesus paid for our sins so we don't need to worry about quitting sin because that's impossible. That is certainly like depending on the ambulance at the bottom to make up for our foolishness committed at the top and if thought about honestly doesn't make sense either.

But likewise, I also no longer subscribe to the idea that the best solution is to impose artificial law with attached punishments like the fence and new regulations on the cliff as the longterm solution to resolving our problems. While that may appear to work in some respects it also robs us of much of the joy and freedom that we were designed to enjoy. Attempting to remove all risks from life is to remove all freedom, and freedom is something God values far more than we tend to.

I believe that God's real plan is to grow us up in maturity and allow us much more freedom so that we can return to sitting safely on the edge of the cliff and once again enjoy the love and fellowship and the stunning beauties that God created for us, not because we are forced to be safe by some imposed barricade but because we are living in harmony with the natural laws that govern all of nature and even the universe. Living in harmony is what love is all about and harmony brings peace and joy and satisfaction like no rules will ever be able to produce.