It’s The Law
Laws have been instituted to keep us from destroying ourselves. From Hammurabi’s Code, The Ten Commandments to the U.S. Constitution to tribal taboos, laws are there to protect us from ourselves. Ourselves, separate from God, that is. And here’s why that distinction is so important.
Our natures, separated from God, spawn every kind of evil(read that which seeks to destroy humankind) imaginable. From wars to domestic abuse; hedonistic debauchery to enslavement of one another; to the seven deadly sins. The law is what it is because we are what we are.
Unfortunately, human beings, being what they are, very early on found a way to corrupt the very laws that were designed to protect society and establish some kind of order. Self interest dominates human nature separated from God and so many of our laws have nothing to do with preserving humanity as a whole, rather they are concerned with preserving special interests, whether it be the interest of the white elite in the Jim Crow south of the United States or the Taliban in Afghanistan; or whether it be a Wall Street hedge fund, or a social welfare system, or personal vengence.
The books written on and about law threatens to crush humanity beneath their weight. In many cases the law has become a tyranny over common sense. In such cases when common sense becomes the victim of some law, we hear the common excuse, “what can we do? It’s the law.” In the face of such madness courageous people have had to stand up and defy “the law”. Martin Luther King famously wrote in his Letter From Birmingham City Jail, A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich¹ has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.
This brilliant piece of reasoning by Martin Luther King is rooted in his reference to Paul Tillich and the understanding that sin as separation from God yields laws that are unjust. So despite the fact that laws were originally instituted in order to mitigate the sin of separation, that very separation from God led to corruption of those laws. Herein lies the fundamental reason that there had to be fulfilling of the law, or stated another way, a bridging of the separation of God and man. It is the only way the law, which in and of itself is a good thing, could be realized in an incorruptible way. This is the reason, John, a disciple of Jesus was so beloved. He recognized that Jesus was the fulfillment of the law in the flesh, because Jesus was the first Man, since Adam, to live a life of Oneness with God.
Therefore, Jesus not only lived the law, but is the law. No greater representation of this exists than the famous passage in scripture where Jesus tells a group of executioners, let he who is without sin—that is not separated from God—cast the first stone. One by one the executioners threw down their stones and walked away. As significantly, he turned to the woman who was about to be executed and says, go and sin no more. He was not just referring to her adultery, he was referring to her separation from God. And as we know, she became a devout disciple of Jesus, diligently seeking that Oneness with God. As the true embodiment of the law, Jesus showed the executioners, the condemned and all of posterity that unification with God through the divine spirit is the only Way the law can be fulfilled.
All of the “thou shalt nots” of the the Ten Commandments, all of the Codes of Hammurabi, all of the prescriptions of Levitical cannons, the U.S. constitution, civil and criminal law along with their attendant corruptions are made moot when the nature of humanity attains Oneness with God. In this condition of Oneness with God we no longer need a law to guide us into right relationships with one another or to prevent evil, because our very natures will be capable only of living lawful lives.
Sadly, despite God’s ultimate sacrifice to bring us within the nature of His divine Being, we continue to suffer from the burden of the law. We see injustice everyday as the tyranny of laws, just and unjust, victimize humankind. Recent cases in the media, whether from the middle east, the U.S. or China, remind us of how our continued separation from God leads to unspeakable horrors that we perpetrate against one another. And while it may be convenient for some to reduce the cause of such horrors to racism, hatred or cultural depravity, it is our individual separation from God that is at the root of frustration that leads us to cry, “It’s the law.”
To God Be The Glory Forever and Ever