Withered Law

Yesterday, I wrote:

All too often, I find myself focusing on either Jesus’s birth or His work on the Cross. There’s so much in the middle to be savored. As I find myself in post-Christmas doldrums, I think I should go read some parables tonight…

Yeah, I never made that happen last night. As the “Advent Postings” to-do stared me in the face a few minutes ago, I sighed and decided I’d dive in. I pulled out my Treo, figured I’d start in Luke, and just guessed on Luke 6. I landed on Luke 6:6-11:

A Man with a Withered Hand
6On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. 7And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. 8But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” And he rose and stood there. 9And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” 10And after looking around at them all he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored. 11But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

This story, for me, encapsulates Jesus’s earthly ministry: doing what was right, not what was necessarily lawful. Now, we can all too easily use this ethos to justify our lawless actions—forgetting that, as Paul noted, we should be dead to the law only because we should be dead to sin through life in Christ. Jesus wasn’t lawless because He loved anarchy—He was lawless because He knew God’s true Law, and He knew that only faith in Him alone was salvific.


I write this living in Alabama, a state primed to watch its Legislature push a bunch of “faith-based” initiatives through next year, as it’s an election year and the evangelical Right quite definitely has a home here. I’d like to remind my fellow Alabamians that nothing about the law saves us, and that the law only serves to codify our sinful natures. Some laws are quite necessary for the smooth functioning of society; much of the dreck you’re going to see shoved through in the name of God and Getting Re-elected, well, that’s just not going to be necessary.