Law v. Grace (John 1:17)

For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.

John 1:17

There is much written and much said about Moses. There is still more written and said about Christ. For all of that, we believers often still find ourselves putting on the yoke of Law instead of living in the freedom of grace. And there are excellent explanations for why.

Before I go off on a tear about the whole issue of how I place myself under a Law that no longer applies, let me first understand the divide between Law and Grace — capitalized, because it is God’s Grace about which I am speaking, not the lesser graces I am capable of showing.

Law, the Ten Commandments; The Torah — choose your poison — is the ideal; the standard against which everything else is measured. The Law is the litmus test; the plumb line; the laser level that tells me I am one hundredth of a degree out of alignment with perfectly level. Men have made lesser laws like speed limits — which we Californians seem terminally incapable of obeying — that are made for our safety or the safety of others — because telling lawyers not to lie does not help them. Law in all its forms — both Divine and human — is an ideal against which our actions are measured. But Divine Law, being Divine, can go further and be the standard against which our thoughts and attitudes are measured. Law does only one thing: Tell me what the standard is. Laws do not give me the ability to obey them — see my previous comment about Californians and speed limits — only the knowledge of what the nature of my disobedience — or, on rare occasions, obedience — is.

Grace, to the contrary, is a dispensation; a giving to me of that which I do not, cannot deserve. If I deserve it, then it is not grace. When speaking of God’s Grace — that capital “G” again — then I receive a great deal. I do not deserve to be forgiven of my wrongdoing — both unintentional, sin, and intentional, transgression — nor to be set free from being judged against that standard. Yet that i precisely what Grace does. Grace both allows me to be forgiven for my wrongs — all debts erased, all bonds paid, all charges dropped — and to enter into a place where I am free from further judgment by that standard. I am now judged by the standards of relationship. And everyone who has been in any sort of relationship knows that it is both more and less terrifying to be judged by that standard.

See, The Law does not love me. It cannot. The Law, once made, needs no one to give it any more. It is given once and abides immutable. Grace, requiring someone or, in this case, Someone to give it, is capable of bringing love along for the ride. In point of fact, we are seldom gracious to those whom we do not love. How can we be? More, Grace is ever-changing. The thing for which I need Grace this moment is not what I needed Grace yesterday, nor even ten minutes ago, and it is certainly not the same thing for which I will need Grace in an hour. Grace is, by its nature, a living, changing thing. The Law is none such.

All of this to come around to the central point: I choose under which of these to place myself. When I accepted Christ’s offer of salvation, I chose to place myself at His Mercy; to cast myself on His Grace. The Law, I know full well, condemns me. Only in Grace have I any chance at all. Am I living accordingly? To be under Grace is to have a freedom that comes only within the bounds of a relationship. My wife is gracious to me. She has to be to remain with me. I am gracious to her, as well. It is within the bounds of our love that we exercise grace. With this as a sort of guide — thinking from the lesser to the greater — what then should I expect from my God? If my wife is able to show me grace, how much more will my God show me Grace. If I — horrific human being that I am — can show grace to my wife, how much greater will the Grace offered by my Savior be. If I live as if I am obligated to obey The Law, then I am missing the point. I am free to obey The Law because my God provides Grace for those times when I fail so to do.

Let me live in Grace — the Grace that is offered to all and appropriated by so very few. Let me be one of those few.


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