“And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building framed together growth unto an holy temple in the Lord.” (Eph. 2:20-21)
From The Christian Life in the Danger Zone
There is a concept in the performance of classical music involving an orchestra and a soloist…called a concerto…which says that the best performance occurs when each participant loses some of their own individuality to the higher vision of the composer’s musical score. The piano soloist may want to go faster or slower at certain points, the flute, piccolo, and clarinet players may all want to play louder when their parts come along in the concerto, and everyone from the conductor to the percussionist has their own ideas of how the musical piece should be played.
But the musical score itself, although open to individual artistic interpretation and expression, sets out in detail when to play loud or soft, fast or slow, and which notes to accent to bring out the melody. The worst performance would have everyone doing their own thing in a confusion of varying tempos and all playing louder than the next person in order to be heard. The best performance occurs when each orchestra musician, the soloist, and the conductor all lose some of themselves for the sake of the musical idea as conceived within the musical score. A higher good is achieved…in this case a cohesive, disciplined, and entertaining rendition of a piano concerto, for example…by giving up something of our own individual interests in collaboration towards a higher common goal or standard for musical performance as articulated within the artistic inspiration recorded in the written musical score.
The world of sports offers several analogies to this concept. In college football, the playcall on offense called the “student-body left” has the entire offensive blocking linemen and the fullback all moving to the left after the football is hiked, with the running halfback carrying the ball looking for the small, momentary opening gap in the defense to run through. All of the offensive linemen and the blocking fullback lose themselves to the coordinated effort of the play scheme, hoping that the swift running halfback will find the elusive hole in the defense to run through for a sizable yardage gain.
In baseball, the “sacrifice fly” hit deep enough to the outfield to get the runner safely home from third base to score a run, is an “out” for the batter but a positive for the team. In basketball, the “assist” of a well-executed pass that sets up an easy “layup” basket for another player is a statistic that recognizes the positive sacrifice of one player’s potential, game-end scoring total by giving up the ball to another player in a better positon on the court to score for the team.
These examples and numerous others embedded within the normal course of life that we take wholly for granted, recognize a reality of best practices that are subservient to distinct sets of principles or programs that are themselves all subservient to a higher, unifying standard of honorably good, right, and fair attitudes that should guide our actions towards the best achievable outcomes. Whether it is how best to perform the third piano concerto of Rachmaninoff, or the best ways to play the games of football, baseball, or basketball, our best and most inspired outcomes are achieved when we understand the value of the giving up of ourselves to these higher programs or principles unique to each endeavor. This approach of the one, true, right way to do something is then harmoniously in-line with the one, unifying higher standard that governs all right behavior.
Some have called this higher standard…the moral law. Others have called it the natural law. I like to call it the natural moral law. Before I-Phones and the internet social media, C. S. Lewis described it briefly this way. If you wrote me a letter a month ago, and I did not respond with a return letter yet, and I bump into you at the grocery store, I will come up with all sorts of expedient excuses for why I have not thoughtfully and courteously made the effort to write a return letter to you. I will say that I hurt my wrist, I ran out of my favorite personal stationary, I have a special project at work that has taken all of my time, or my wife has kept me busy painting the exterior of our house.
I come up with a quickly fabricated excuse to explain my poor social etiquette in this matter of failing to courteously reply to a friend’s letter because I automatically and independently know what the right course of action should have been. This is not merely a result of social reactive conditioning. My friend and I are both instantly and naturally appealing to an independent standard for right behavior that we each subconsciously subscribe to.
Another better response would simply be to apologize to my friend, admit that I had “dropped the ball” and that I would reply to his letter soon.
But the one thing I will not flatly say, if I want to keep our friendship intact, is to protest that I am not duty bound to return his letter and that I am surprised by his inquiry about my alleged oversight. This flat rejection of an accepted social norm for courtesy in timely replying to personal letters from friends would violate the higher standards of the natural moral law, universally underlying right behavior in all human relationships. This is a reality of right and virtuous conduct completely self-existent and independent of whether or not we consciously recognize this high standard called the natural moral law.