Laws are necessary. In our broken world, without them, chaos and evil reign with an iron grip. In the absence of laws, the mightiest, or the cruelest, or the most evil person becomes the law. The world is a much darker place when that happens. But embedded in the law, and running all throughout it, is a problem. It’s a problem that exists in all laws given to govern our behaviors, regardless of whether or not they come from God or from men. Laws only set the minimum standard, and when people meet the minimum standard, they feel holy and righteous. Often, they are neither.
To be holy or righteous requires a heart that desires not to meet the minimum, but to embrace as fully as possible the attributes of holiness and righteousness – to make them part of you at a very core level. Paul tells us that when we’re able incorporate those attributes spiritually, that we no longer even need laws, because we naturally engage pursuits of holiness and righteousness for which no laws are necessary (Galatians 5:16-25). We stop sinning because we are no longer interested in sin. And in those moments when we do fall, our righteous and holy hearts drive us to make up for our failures. When we get to this level of maturity, we become like immovable rocks of good. We can truly be in the presence of God.
David sings that when we’re like that, we can dwell with God in his sanctuary or on his holy hill. Check out Psalm 15:1-5. David shares that the person who can dwell with God is blameless in a general sense, and speaks truth at the very center of his being (Psalm 15:2). David is singing of a heart issue – a centeredness issue. His aim is above the law. Isaiah 29:13 shows us the reverse of David’s example. There, the prophet tells how God chastises his people whose hearts are far from him, and how their behavior is marked not by a true heart, but by adherence to rules taught by men. In the rest of his psalm, David goes on to share many traits of a righteous person. It’s interesting to note that he isn’t sharing a list of do’s and don’ts. Instead, he’s sharing the character marks of someone committed to the well-being of others. Some of these traits appear to go beyond the written law. For instance, Psalm 15:5 seems to hint that the righteous person doesn’t lend money at interest to anyone. The law, however, allowed interest when lending to foreigners.
How, when, where, and with whom does your heart lead you to go beyond the law?