Saturday, August 30, 2008

God's Law: what to make of condemnation

The Law of God has a power that we naturally dread: the power to condemn sin -- that is, our own sin. The law sets itself at enmity with evil and condemns it to destruction; it sets itself against impurity and decrees that it must be made clean again; it wages war on injustice. Our impure hearts have a very natural reaction to this: to pretend we are clean already, then pick up the law to use as a weapon to attack and destroy our own personal enemies. We have what it takes to hate sin in others, but rarely in ourselves. The natural temptation is to an immoral use of morality. The follower of Christ is called to a far more challenging use of the law.

The follower of Christ is called to take up the Law against the evil in his own heart. In our times it has been common for "condemnation", because of its abuse, to be considered always too harsh; after all, doesn't Christ pardon our sins? But the pardon of our sins is found in the cross, which is not the message of those who would take sin lightly. The message of the cross does not excuse sin, but condemns it. At the cross we find forgiveness, but only at the price of condemnation rather than excuses. Part of taking up our own cross must be a willingness to condemn that evil within us which belongs on a cross. Part of joining with Christ's death must be condemning the evil within us to die on the cross with Christ. "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin." (Romans 6:6)

The condemnation of the law calls for our destruction. At the cross of Christ, we take up that call against ourselves, condemning our own sinfulness not in despair or in self-hatred -- for that would be still holding onto the sin as if it were still our own. Instead, we dare to hate our own sin and disown it, as Christ takes away the filth and shame. We dare to nail our sins to the cross and condemn them to die; we dare turn to Christ and in his death find ourselves set free. For we have in our better times hated the corruption within our own souls, and we have been given a weapon against that evil: the condemnation of the law against it. This condemnation, directed at ourselves now rather than our enemies, and recognizing the true enemy as sin, drives us to the cross of Christ. The law empowers us to stand firm against evil on the most treacherous ground of all, our own souls. The cross gives us the courage to condemn the evil inside us to death. It fulfills the promise spoken long ago in the Psalm, "the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."

Only God's profound faithfulness in forgiving sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness gives us the freedom to be truthful about our own sins. For our souls will come only when we see that God is trustworthy. At the cross we have the freedom to recognize that we have been slaves to sin -- because there we find freedom in Christ.


Diane R said...

Outstanding post! Thank you.

Weekend Fisher said...

Thank you! Good to see you again.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF