Saturday, April 10, 2010

Laying Down the Law

My son has a communication problem, even though he’s not a teenager yet. We have to work hard with him in a couple areas: first, in getting him to initiate communication, and second, helping him practice putting sounds together.

One day, he wanted something that I had purposely placed out of his reach. He reached for it, but I wanted him to practice his speech. “Say book,” I required. Had he simply said, “buh-kuh” that would have been fine.

Now, I like to model my parenting style after God’s. That’s ambitious, but we are called to it. We use the Bible to learn how God treats us and try to help our children learn about God the Father through, say, Ken the Father. (Poor little guy.)

So as I was insisting that he say “book” in order to get a book, I reflected on my relationship to God. His love is unconditional, right? As Christians, we delight in the fact that we are saved by grace and not by law, right? So why do I have to set up these law-systems for my son?

The answer is that the goal of the law (that is, of saying “buh-kuh” to get his book) is not to get my son to prove his mettle. He’s not in a real good position for that anyway. The point of saying “buh-kuh” is so that he can ultimately communicate with me, and have an even better relationship with me. And not only me, but his mom, the other great people in his life, and even God.

So the goal of the “buh-kuh” law is relationship.

And this was God’s goal with the Old Testament law as well. He taught His people through routines and rituals to understand some basic principles they were going to need to know. How could they understand God’s relationship with them without profoundly understanding sin, sacrifice, forgiveness, holiness, and all the other things the law demonstrated? They needed to learn to speak the language.

Yet once His people were full grown, they no longer needed to persist in the routine—just like some day my son won’t need to say “buh-kuh” to get the book. He can just take it, bring it to me, and ask me to read to him.

“Oh Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise” (Psalm 51:15).

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