Thursday, September 28 2006
"Morality, then, seems to be concerned with three things. Firstly, with fair play and harmony between individuals. Secondly, with what might be called tidying up or harmonising the things inside each individual. Thirdly, with the general purpose of human life as a whole: what man was made for: what course the whole fleet ought to be on: what tune the conductor of the band wants it to play." Mere Christianity
Lewis tells us there are these three purposes of the moral law: (1) outward harmony between human beings, (2) inner harmony within each human being and (3) playing the tune the conductor wants us to play. That tune is really a love song; it is all about a love relationship with God and with others. The first four of the Ten Commandments have to do with our relationship with God. The latter six have to do with our relationship with each other as human beings. Jesus summed up the law when he said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul and all your strength" and "love your neighbor as yourself".
The 16th century Reformers, like Lewis, talked about three "uses" of the law, but they looked at the matter from a slightly different angle. They said that one use of the law is to restrain corruption in society. If God never told us how to act we would be "all over the map". If there were no civil laws in society people would probably hurt each other even more than they do already.
A second and most important use of the law is to show us our need of a savior and point us to Jesus as that savior. As Lewis notes, there are two remarkable things about the moral law: (1) we all have similar ideas about right human conduct, yet (2) none of us live up to our own standards. The law of human nature reveals that we fall short of God's perfect plan for us and we need someone to make up for our shortcomings.
A third use of the law is to provide a guide to us in how to live as Christians. However, I'm not sure that the Reformers really saw this third aspect in its fullness. There tends to be a sort of flatness, a Protestant moralism, stemming from some of the views expressed at the time of the Reformation. Certainly the law is a guide, a map if you will, showing us how to conduct our lives in order to get to God's desired destination for us. However, we have something better than this map now than what the Lord's people had in Old Testament times. We actually have the map-maker with us to guide us. The map-maker became a human being in Jesus Christ and showed us how to follow the map. When you are trying to get from point A to point B by car it is always helpful to have a map. But what is even more helpful is to have someone lead you in their car while you follow along behind. (That is part of what Jesus did for us 2,000 years ago.) And what is even better is to have someone with you in your car who knows the way. That is just what we have in the Christian life; we have the Holy Spirit riding in the car with us, our spiritual Global Positioning System! In fact, the Holy Spirit will do the driving for us, if we let him take the driver's seat. That is what it means to be filled with the Spirit; it means to come under his full influence and control. And not only will he do the driving for us, he will also provide the fuel to get us where we need to be. If we leave the driving to the Holy Spirit he will enable us to follow God's map and get to our final destination on time.