I believe that from the beginning, God's Law was built in to His creation:
"Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
(Mark 12:29-31 ESV)
It was simple, uncomplicated. The only 'shall not' that Adam and Eve had to worry about was:
"but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
(Genesis 2:17 ESV)
But mankind sinned. The simple principle of love was not specific enough. The wickedness from each successive generation built upon the ones before it. There needed to be something to restrain mans sinful actions.
That is when God laid down His moral Law, through His servant Moses. This time He was specific; He listed 10 commands for His people to obey. The first 'checklist', if you will. This 'checklist' was given, not to provide a way for a man to be perfect (not possible), but to be a Guardian, a restraining influence. (and more, most importantly to point to the need of a Savior!)
(Galatians 3:23 ESV)
"I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world."
(Galatians 4:1-3 ESV)
God's Law is perfect, but mankind is far from it. Even this specific list of 'do's' and 'don't's' could not make man any better, in his heart. (For a word of clarification: I don't want to make it sound like this was some kind of 'trial and error' attempt on God's part. This was His plan of redemption from the beginning, to show us His love and our need for Him.)
Then the time was gloriously fulfilled that God should send His Son. God the Son, writer of the Law, born under the Law, the only One who could completely keep the Law, came to redeem those restrained by the Law.
"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His son, born of woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, so that we might receive adoption as sons."
God's Law is still in effect. It is still wrong to lie, or steal, or kill. But because of Christ's sacrifice we are free from the burden of the Law, since it is Christ's Righteousness we have received and not our own through fulfilling the Law (like we could).
"So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,"
(Galatians 3:24-25 ESV)
I daresay we are no different than the Jews who were trying to keep the 10 commandments all those years ago. The same sinful people in need of redemption. I know I still desire 'checklists'. Specific directions to follow that will guarantee a specific, pleasured outcome. And I'm not the only one.
Just look at all the 'self-help' books on the secular and Christian shelves. Yeah, we Christians have self-help books too. The most popular one's being about getting married, staying married and raising children.
From the time I was 13, I read and listened to everything I could find about the 'Dating vs. Courtship' debate. Books, articles, tapes, cd's. All of them attempted to lay out a formula to follow. Which, in all honesty, I can't blame them for. Our culture had gotten so far removed from any semblance of biblical principles in relationships, there needed to be some defining and redefining of terms.
But the dangerous thing was that people, myself included, took these 'rules', these 'checklists', to heart, without stopping to consider if these rules were found in Scripture. When you take a formula and just go with it, it is possible to leave faith in God totally out of the process. How devastating! I'm afraid this is what happened with the Jews in their efforts to follow the Law in their own righteousness.
Now, let me clarify: The books, articles, tapes and cd's that I learned from did serve a good purpose. A lot of them did take principles from Scripture and they did 'reset' my thinking about how I would 'do' relationships. My issue is that I and so many people grab hold of the external and believe that 'one size fits all'. Unless God directly commands something, it takes a little bit of faith to interpret how Scripture applies to things, and sometimes it is different for each individual situation.
Legalism vs. Love, Law vs. Grace has been a recurring theme in my life and especially for the past month. Beginning with something Paul Washer said, then Voddie Baucham, then last weeks sermon from Pastor Blane, and finally a homeschool seminar and a conversation with a friend.
Now, I don't want anyone to think I'm backsliding, or giving up any convictions, this past month has simply been an awakening of the understanding (not just knowing) that the Gospel truly is the CENTRAL thing for any issue. I'm not giving up my convictions about biblical relationships, but I am seeking to evaluate the formula I've learned, comparing it against Scripture.
I want to seek the Lord in all areas of my life. The more I learn to depend on Him for everything, the more my life will line up with biblical principles. This is a scary statement to make; it takes a tremendous amount of faith and it's so much easier to lean on a checklist than to search the Scriptures! (That's why I've done it all these years)
There are many good 'checklists', the Law especially, but that's not enough. I really do believe a real, living, breathing relationship with Christ is the best way to learn what His will is for every season of life.