It’s been twenty years since I graduated from law school, and although my current job does require a law degree I don’t practice law any more. I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I had chosen a different path and not gone to law school.
But in the grand scheme of things, I believe going to law school has made me who God intended me to be and has given me an understanding of the gospel that might have otherwise eluded me.
The other day I was thinking about the law and its relationship to the gospel. I was reminded of the verse from Romans in which Paul tells us that the law was powerless to save us, or to change our human nature, but that Christ died to save us.
For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. Romans 8:3 (NIV).
The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Romans 8:3 (NLT).
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin. Romans 8:3 (NASB).
In this country, we live by the rule of law. It may not be the law of Moses, but we certainly have laws, both criminal and civil. In fact, we have more laws than Moses could have dreamed of. And yet those laws can’t change how all people act and they can’t save us from our own sinful nature. There are laws and people break them. If they are caught and convicted in a court of law, then they are punished. But that is all the law can do.
I’ve often thought of this Romans verse in relation to our criminal laws. But I realized that our system of civil laws is no better. We have a complex system of statutes and case law to govern how people should treat others whom they’ve harmed, either intentionally or unintentionally. There are rules about who should pay whom in the event of an injury resulting from a car accident, a faulty consumer product, or a dangerous condition on someone’s property.
All of these rules and laws don’t change the hearts of people to make them want to repay another whom they’ve injured. The growing civil caseload of the courts in this country is evidence of that. But even when the court system results in an injured party being awarded monetary damages (which is pretty much all the system can do) and the party who caused the injury pays the judgment, the law remains powerless to provide true healing. There is a legal concept of making an injured party whole through an award of damages, but the law, even carried out to the letter, can never really make an injured person whole again.
I’m not suggesting that we should jettison the legal system that provides for the medical bills of one who can no longer work because of a physical injury caused by someone else, because the monetary awards is such cases are often a Godsend for the hurting person. But the law is powerless to provide true healing.
True healing and wholeness comes through forgiveness. It started when God forgave our sin through the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross and reconciled us with Himself. It continues when we seek God’s help to forgive those who have injured us.