I Fought the Law

Now I think it’s time to rehabilitate its unsavory reputation. /

The law, as in the ethical commands of Scripture, has gotten a bad name in Christianity. I should know. I’m one of those writers who has tried to give it a bad name, linking it to words like oppressive,burdensome, and legalistic. Like an automobile engine without oil, a law-based life heats up rapidly and explodes, broken camshafts erupting through the hood, the car coming to a slow stop with smoke trailing behind. In settings where the law has become a substitute for grace, I echo Paul: “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. . . . You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Gal. 5:1, 4).

The law’s seamy reputation is not helped by verses like that. Or by biblical stories like the following. On one visit to Antioch, Paul was disturbed with Cephas because he was bending the knee to Jewish eating laws:

When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. (Gal. 2:11–13)

So we add hypocrisy to the word association game.

But then we run into the words of Jesus:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear ...

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Also in this Issue

Issue 21 / April 30, 2015
  1. Editors’ Note

    Issue 21: Redeeming the Law, whale migration, cell sacrifice, and farsightedness.

  2. The Largest Beast’s Long Migration

    Blue whales shock us with their size. But their efficiency and endurance are greater still. /

  3. Greater Love Has No Cell

    The biblical allegory written into our bodies. /

  4. Presbyopia

    ‘By some miracle, she felt a lifting / lost the tyranny and weight of near things’ /

  5. Wonder on the Web

    Links to amazing stuff /

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