(student doing homework by the river)
I am reading an interesting autobiography by Asa Mahan who lived from 1799-1889.
For 30 years he was president of American colleges and was the first President of Oberlin College.
He was a very intelligent man and a deep thinker who had some very interesting insights that affected how he ruled in his position of authority.
He tells how very strictly the colleges of his day were ruled by protocol. From the President down to the lowly Freshman every 'caste' division had to be recognized by every one giving first place honor as to seating or greeting to any member of a 'caste' above them.
Also the colleges were governed by a long list of 'rules' and regulations strictly enforced and students monitored.
Mahan, as a young man entering college , was handed a paper itemizing the long list of rules. He said he never read to the end of the list, yet graduated as one recognized for never having violated the college rules.
Mahan was always perplexed and concerned about the disregard for the rules by the college students and the violence/bullying between the 'castes', the hazing and every attempt made to get away with breaking a rule.
After 15 years of holding the President position in various colleges he he began to wonder what would happen if he did something never tried before -- something very radical and unconventional. He decided to conduct an experiment to test his theory.
He was president of Oberlin college for 15 years. The first year the school opened, in his first President address to the student body he spoke to them about how every one of them knew what was right to do , what the correct conduct in a given situation was, how to behave one to another and how to be respectful of authority.
Therefore he said, there would be no official list of rules. Each student would be expected to live by his own conscience , ruled by his inner knowing of right and wrong. Accountability, responsibility would be what each student held himself to personally.
Mahan's theory proved to be right. When there was a list of rules to focus on governing behavior, the student's attention was on how to circumvent or break those laws and see how much they could get away with.
When instead the President put them on a self-honor system every student found in himself a desire to live up to the trust and expectation of their President.
Mahan said that the behavior was exemplary in every student , except for two of the youngest boys who finally decided that since no one had been punished all year for mis-behavior obviously there was no punishment. So they tested the system, getting into a fight. Mahan grabbed each of them by the scruff of their neck and applied the discipline needed. There was no further trouble.
I thought about this example of college rule and I realized how the insight Mahan had as President was really patterned after the wisdom of God - insight God had from the very beginning.
The Old Testament law was the college list of do's and don'ts. As it says in Gal 3:24 "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster ...." The law was to teach us to understand right from wrong and instill in us the discipline and yearning to live righteously. But the law could only go so far... it could not do what God's desire was for us.
God's goal for man is stated in the second half of Gal. 3:4 "to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith."
If the law could not justify us , what could ?
God gave man the 'law' to train man's conscience but the law encourages man to focus on finding the technical loopholes and the minimum requirement. By the time Jesus came the Jewish leaders had so added to God's commandments they were trying to enforce a list of over 600 laws. The people were discouraged.
No matter how hard someone tries to keep a 'list' of rules, it is only a matter of time before one or more are violated or overlooked.
So God brought out His 'honor system' . The New Covenant.
Jesus cleared away the sin question, by His own sacrifice providing the payment due so man could find 'free' forgiveness. Free simply by sincerely desiring it and a willingness to 'sin no more'.
God says of His New Covenant - "But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, (after the Old Covenant) saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people." Jer. 31:33
God said, "I have put my law into your hearts/consciences to know what is right and what is wrong ... I give you now only one covering 'law' - the law of love. "If you love the Lord your God and your neighbour as yourself" (Luke 10:27) you will in everything you do be pleasing before Me. There is no 'sin' possible under the law of love. "He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in him". I Jn. 2:10
But just like the little boys who thought that they could do as they pleased since there was no 'list' so also believers are held to a higher standard. Living by the law of love means a 24/7 lifestyle of an obedient heart.
May we agree with Paul's prayer ... "And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:" I Th. 3:12
When one day we stand before our Lord on 'graduation day' , may we be found perfect in His righteousness, having walked in obedience to the commandments of God because we loved God and truly loved each other.