… present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and offer every part of yourself to God as instruments of righteousness. (Romans 6:13)
Before we get to the great pinnacle of our story, we must first examine that upon which many decisions have been based. Whether we are discussing Narnia or the life of Christ, the primary, and often misunderstood, piece is the same: the law.
Throughout Judaeo-Christian history, the law has been essential in our lives. We see the “Ten Commandments” even on our secular buildings as a key way of ordering our lives together. The decalogue touches on many practices that enable us to live a full and happy life together with God. They are the basis on which all the other laws have been written – of which there are many (two or three more books of the Bible worth) because we humans love our rules and regulations. We like to see the wicked get their comeuppance. We like to see evil smashed and the sinful punished. The law makes us such good people, right?
What had happened by the time Jesus arrived on the scene in Israel, and Aslan in Narnia, is that those living under the law for so many centuries, had developed their own sense of it’s meaning. They have taken it to extreme degrees that enable the powerful to enjoy the spoils of a life well-tricked and force the weak into submission.
As a religious system, the law had become something untenable. The candid truth is that we cannot possibly fulfill the law perfectly. Jesus and Aslan both point out why: in attempting to legalistically fulfill the law, or forcing others to try, we have lost all sight of the law’s true purpose.
When the ancient principles were written upon the stone tables (because table is another translation of the word for “tablet”), they were not intended as the weapon they became. They were written to create community, build deep relationships, and equip lives built upon the principles of serving God by serving one another.
When pressed by the religious leaders of his day to summarize the law, Jesus told them to hang all the law and the prophets on these two things: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. That is the summary. That is the law’s true purpose. Anything that is done, even in the name of the law, that causes harm to our relationship with God or one another is a sin and serves evil.
What was true in Jesus’ and Aslan’s day is just as true in ours. We like the long lists of rules because they are easier to hold over one another’s heads. We also prefer to always be the exception to all the rules, while everyone else get’s demolished for breaking even one iota of dogma. The Church has a long history of using the law to condemn, demean, and destroy people that it was meant to serve.
It may be true that we live under the grace of Christ – the One who would willingly sacrifice innocent blood for our sins – but the law does still have a place within our lives. Rather than be the means by which we are saved and live a perfect life before God, they become the method by which we live out the gift of grace that has been given to us.
There are times when we will need to be knocked down a few pegs and remember that all of us have sinned and fallen short and deserve censure by God under the law. And then there will be times that we need to experience the new life of Christ at work within us, rebuilding our relationships, and turning our lives and whole selves into instruments of God’s true purposes in this world. Both are necessary parts of the life of faith. Rather than being a checklist (or a laundry list of commands), in a healthy faith-walk these dual processes become a cycle that keep us living further into the grace given by God.
The Stone Table may be the place of tradition, but at the end of the day, it is meant to serve the people, not the other way around.