Good Law, Beautiful Faith
“Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.'” – Galatians 3:12
Religious people are right when we say that there are laws and customs, and ways to do things that help control borders. This is not a sneaky way to talk about the immigration debate or to sneak in Robert Frost poetry about how good fences make good neighbors. Nor is it just a way to reflect on boundary theology, that great new fad telling clergy not to muck around in others’ lives inappropriately.
Instead, I just plain respect the law. Laws and customs, especially the consensual, can be very good things. They manage the great mysteries of life and death by saying, “This is how we in our community hatch, match and dispatch.” We have traditions and rituals, finely honed by our forebears. Many spiritual people hunger for them.
Spiritual only people, or the “Nones,” are also right when they hunger for something real and powerful as spiritual experience. Many really don’t know how to do a funeral or a wedding without perjuring themselves. I mostly do memorial services with Nones, and they always start out saying their beloved has “passed” and that they want no God. They do want something, but they don’t want to be false or phony at graveside. Sounds Godly to me—to refuse to be phony about God.
What if faith and law came together in a person: not phony law, but good law; not phony, propped-up faith, but real faith? Ah, then we would really be talking.
Great originator, you who are the true original, you whom we can only copy over and over again, draw near and give us beautiful law and beautiful faith, day by day, person by person.
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her latest book is Prayers for People Who Say They Can’t Pray.