“So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.”—Galatians 3:24
These days, the “Law” is almost a dirty word among Christians, particularly those who’ve been around for a while and who’ve suffered the hurts perpetrated upon them by legalistic churches and legalistic people. For all we like to talk about God’s grace, we view it suspiciously and practice it begrudgingly. In many cases, we even hold it at arm’s length from ourselves, watching it dangle tantalizingly and painfully, just out of soul’s reach. Lord, I am not worthy, we beat ourselves up over and over. No … we are not.
When once we get a prison break from the Law and the whiff of freedom that comes from realization that our justification is not won in law keeping, but in Christ having fulfilled the Law, we tend to run from captivity like wild animals fleeing cages for the forest, never looking back and anxious to put great distance between us and what held us for so long. Understood.
Nevertheless, it begins to dawn on us that the Law is not a curse to flee, but a gift to treasure. Even though we have come to Christ and might be tempted to think the Law is no longer useful, the reality is that we are every day still coming to Christ and it is the Law that reminds us that we are always and forever in need of him.
Unfortunately, we view and communicate the Law as an enemy much of the time. In fact, it’s more like one of those friends comfortable enough to tell us the uncomfortable truth. I have one of those friends … direct and sometimes irritating, but always refreshingly honest. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (708), the Law, powerless to save us, goes right ahead and reminds us that we are “deprived of the divine likeness” and inflicts a “growing awareness of sin.”
Deprived of the divine likeness … an idea filled with import. Yes, we are formed in the image of God, but scarred, marred and disfigured by sin. Until we encounter the Law, we somehow believe we are normal, looking just as we should. In truth, we are only shadows and shells, empty of the glory of God. The Father desires to mature and complete us, to make us not just living creatures, but sons and daughters … children for his glory. “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:6,7). This is the divine intention, truly a height we can hardly imagine and even less, achieve. The Law hurts us with its revelation, but without it we would be forever doomed to our disfigurement.
When God knew us in his mind before he founded the earth, he imagined us as displays of his splendor. We become that in time and space by virtue of the indwelling Spirit recreating Christlife in our mortal flesh. We only have the indwelling Spirit as we call upon Christ to save us. And we only call upon Christ to save us when we see our disfigurement juxtaposed against the perfection of the Law. It is true the Law does fail to save us, but it does not fail to take us by the hand and lead us to the Savior. God forbid that we should run from it, but rather that we should get on our knees and thank him for his great and good gift of the Law. Without it, we would not know him.
Let us pray.