Monday, November 15, 2010
The Beauty of the Law
Robert Farrar Capon has a wonderful line in which he describes the Law of God as a vision of true beauty. I will admit to stumbling over that line a few times. But he is right. The Jews had it write. It is a vision of true beauty -- the beauty of holiness, of purity, of obedience, of virtue... These things are good and holy and beautiful.
Remember that line in Amadeus when Mozart wanted to write an opera in German about a man building his marriage bed? The leaders said no to an opera that spoke of the mundane -- opera was supposed to speak of virtue and that is why the mythological gods of Greece and Rome and the fight between good and evil, were good subjects. Mozart countered that who would not rather listen to the gossip at the hair dresser than to think about virtue and the stories of the gods. Sin has turned our hearts from the beauty of the law and its virtue to the scintillating details of immorality.
I would add to Capon that the law is beauty -- a true vision of beauty -- but it is unattainable beauty. We see its impossible to attain beauty clearly only from the vantage point of faith in Christ and then the work of Christ becomes all that more beautiful. Apart from Christ the Law is like the fine art in a museum. We love to go and view its beauty but it is a beauty distant from us, separated from our daily lives like the ropes separate us from the paintings in the museum. We walk around it and ooh and ahhh but then we go home and turn on the TV where the juicy details and forbidden humor of immorality and vulgarity fit us more than the beauty of the law ever could. Until Jesus intervenes to change us and by the Spirit we learn not only to appreciate the beauty of the law but to desire its beauty and to be surrounded by its beauty all the time. It is this fruit of Christ's redeeming work that we seek the things that are above and the law becomes for us not only the pointy finger in accusation or the curb to keep us in line. It also becomes the good and glorious path that the redeemed of the Lord, whom He has declared to be holy and righteous, desire and follow (within the limits of fallen, human frailty to be sure).
The Law of God is good and wise, says the hymnwriter, and sets His will before our eyes... We don't have to run past the beauty in order to always see the law as accusatory. In Christ we can also see its beauty. And in Christ we learn to echo the words of the Psalmist: I delight in Your statutes.... I will run in the way of Your commandments when You enlarge my heart...I find my delight in Your commandments which I love...Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day... I love Your commandments above gold, above fine gold...