I just recently heard this phrase. How often do we do that, try to make things right by using rules? We certainly aren’t the first. We can learn from biblical history that the Jews established hedge laws after returning from exile. They were afraid they may sin again and be exiled once more. In order to avoid that, they made up new laws that they hoped would keep them getting anywhere near the Mosaic laws. The result? I believe Jesus’ words tell it all: brood of vipers, white-washed tombs, hypocrites. Yikes!
The Lord knew this was no way to live. We simply cannot save ourselves by just trying to be good. We can’t. He, in his mercy, redeemed and restored us to God. Paul taught that the laws served the purpose of showing us how short we fall in attaining salvation through our own strength. He also warns that if we continue to choose to make it on our own, we must live by each and every law. After all, how can you claim to live by the law if you are picking and choosing which to follow?
Even now, both the Church and secular societies strive for salvation through legislation. We instate rituals, mores and laws designed to control, to save. But it doesn’t work.
The first problem is the denial of free will. If we try to control to the point that we eliminate free will, then life is pointless. We are merely Lego pieces on a child’s table. Our actions are not our own, life is absent.
If we manage to not squash free will with over-legislation, we will still have problems. The core problem is that the free will rebels. People stop being a united community or society. There is no one to trust, because anyone might rat you out for breaking some rule. And all of your time is spent holding on to what you have got and looking for loopholes to get more. Every man or family becomes an island unto itself. We become animal-like, community dies, life is absent.
We just can’t legislate morality; we can’t save ourselves through law. God only sees the heart, so controlling behavior with no regard to the heart always results in a death. There really is no other way.