|Ten in the morning at Buckland Park|
Rule-keeping does not naturally evolve into living by faith, but only perpetuates itself in more and more rule-keeping, a fact observed in Scripture: “The one who does these things [rule-keeping] continues to live by them.” Galatians 3:12 Translation from The Message
I often look at the scripture as translated in The Message. This has been critiqued as only one person's interpretation but I find the straight forward language often helps me discover meaning that lies disguised in the formal, scriptural language. This is one of those times.
Paul constantly writes about flesh (law) and spirit (faith.) The first leads to a cul-de-sac of trying to follow rules, inevitably failing and then trying again. It is a cycle that leads to a slow decline and finally death. The second leads to eternal life unfolding within us and radiating out from us.
I first learned about religion as a child of course. It was natural that there was focus on right behavior as there was in all areas of life. Here is how it looks to be obedient, to be studious, to be cooperative, to be religious. But it was always the case that sooner or later I would have to appropriate the faith as my own. In another passage in the The Message translation, Paul writes "Doing things for God is the opposite of entering into what God does for you." No amount of rule following leads to faith. Faith is something that the Divine One does for us, each of us, and which we only have to embrace.
There has to be a personal conversion in which I turn away from rule keeping in order to fully enter into the life of the Divine One. It is a fundamental change at the core of my being that expresses itself in right relationships with the Divine One and with other people and indeed all creation. This is what Yahweh means when the psalmist writes, "I desire a contrite heart, not sacrifice."