Last week I wrote of grace. This week I'm firmly back in the world of rules; I write to a prisoner on death row in the US, and twice recently my letters have been returned since the envelopes were non-standard. The first time I sent the letter in an envelope of the palest shade of grey, not knowing that they should be white. Letter returned to me by the authorities, undelivered to its recipient. So I put it in a white envelope, and sent it off. Letter returned, ditto. The interior of the envelope was blue, printed thus presumably to prevent prying eyes seeing the envelope's contents. But still not good enough; the search is now on for that rare beast, a white envelope with a white interior- and it ain't easy to find.
Ah yes, rules. If only we knew them all, could keep them all. If only I was aware of the rules, handed down since childhood, that govern my life- even better, aware of the rules that govern yours, so that I don't cross them. Put like this, together with the variable rules of every society, written and unwritten, changing and unchanging, petty-fogging and common-sensical, public and private, new and old, there must be an infinite number. No wonder we are confused, transgressing at every turn, 'in thought, word and deed, through negligence, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault.'
All of which is somehow transcended for those in the faith by grace, which in a world of infinite rules, allows me to move forward, The promise is that I shall not be trapped in failure to keep the rules, anxiety that I have transgressed, and thus immobilised; but experience the green pastures, the goodness and expansiveness of salvation, of grace, which put rules into a perspective which acknowledges their place, but allows me to see the shocking truth that grace is sovereign. This coming week exemplifies the clash of rules and grace- in spite of the insistent and deathly voice of rules, grace overcomes.