Candyland is a terrible game. Did you ever play Candyland as kid?
Here is why Candyland is a terrible game: The object of the game is to follow the rules. You win the game by drawing cards and moving to the colored space revealed on the cards. No strategy. No creativity. No thinking for yourself. No thinking outside the box.
Simply follow the rules.
Sadly, people play Candyland every day. And they love it.
Sadly, people play at Christianity just like they play Candyland. Give me rules to follow, a to-do list to check off. Don’t make me think or create. Just let me show up and let it be enough.
And it’s this kind of Christianity that Paul is railing against in this letter.
What does Paul mean when he says “the law”? And why (v. 19)? And it is then contrary to God’s promises (v. 21)?
There are the rituals and regulations in the first five books of the Bible, commonly known as the Torah. But in Paul’s day, it’s believed, all of these were boiled down to circumcision, observing the Sabbath, and not eating pork. So perhaps, when Paul talks about “the law,” he’s talking about the legalistic idea of what’s the bare minimum to make it to heaven. It’s the Christian version of 37 pieces of flair.
What if “the law” was meant to be like a cast on a broken limb? An external guide meant to bring inner healing. Paul argues that the life and death and resurrection of Jesus enables that healing and our obedience.
In his book The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard talks about “the gospel of sin management.” By this, he means the elaborate external mechanizations we create to try to prevent ourselves from sinning. This really is “the law” that Paul talks about, our feeble human attempts to just stop it.
But what the life of the Spirit does, according to Paul, is transform us from the inside out, not the outside in, eradicating our very desire for sin in the first place.
We don’t have to play Candyland Christianity.