Moving from Law to Love

In his epistle (letter) to the Church in Galatians, St. Paul writes,

But knowing that a man is not justified by works of the Law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we believed in Christ Jesus, in order that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the Law, because by works of the Law no flesh is justified (Gal 2: 16).

Moses

Here, St. Paul writes of the Mosaic Law — the Law given to Moses by God in the Sinai wilderness. This Law helped define the Jewish people, and set them apart from their Gentile counterparts. However, through much of his ministry St. Paul battled the Judaizers. These were Jews who came to faith in Christ, but insisted Gentile converts to Christ become subject to the Mosaic Law, chiefly circumcision. In brief, St. Paul countered their argument by stating, “if you Jews cannot keep the Law, why do you want to impose it upon Gentiles?”

According to St. Paul, the Law was meant to be a tutor, or a mentor. It was to enable, in time, the Jews to see their need for the Messiah, their Savior, who would deliver them from the death of sin. In the epistle to the Galatians, St. Paul instructs his readers to understand that faith in Christ is their salvation. He argues that observing the Mosaic Law does not earn this salvation which comes by faith in Christ Jesus. In other words, the Galatians do not come to a right relationship with God by legal observances, but only by faith in Christ.

I come to the subject of law in general. Laws are meant to govern. Laws bring order, peace, and protection to people. That is the good, and positive side to law. However, their is a natural corollary to any law. This corollary is fear of punishment. Law, punishment, fear: Not only do these apply to human laws enacted by legislation, they also accompany us in our life of faith in Christ. These may motivate for a season, but fear of punishment cannot provide a taproot to secure and draw nourishment from Christ. There must be something far better and profound than law, fear, and punishment to sustain a life of faith. There must be a movement within us from, “What must I do, or else…” to “I do this because of love.” In all honesty these two motivations exist simultaneously — to varying degrees — in all of us. However the former motivator is in every case to be transformed into the latter motivator. This can be accomplished when we understand that the Christian life is not one of rules, but a life of relationship with the Triune God!

St. Paul, some years after his epistle to the Galatians, writes another epistle to the church in Ephesus. In Ephesians we read this regarding relationship:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved [Christ]. In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of the grace which he lavished upon us. For he has made know to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his [the Father’s] will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to gather together all things in him [Christ], those things in heaven and those things on earth (Eph 1: 3 – 10).

What we have as an unearned gift is a rich, lavish relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We also have, in Christ, relationship with the entirety of creation. For all things, as is appropriate for their species, exist in some incredible manner in Christ. All exists in Christ and the basis of being and relationship. Yet, this relationship is not anarchistic. There is “law” to govern us — a “law” of love. And it is love which is to motivate us to act and do according to our Lord’s will — that we may manifest in our day and time what has been accomplished in and by Christ.

In Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus



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