Thursday, May 30, 2013

Law/Love Analogies

The relationship between the Law of the Old Testament and the Gospel of the New Testament is sometimes difficult to wrap the mind around. I first began to wrestle with it in senior high when my Sunday School teacher asked the class, "What is your motivation for obedience if you know that you will not be punished for disobedience?"  I had previously lived my Christian life motivated entirely by the fear of punishment for wrongdoing.  So the question was unfathomable to me.  If the motivation of punishment was removed, what is left in this world to keep us on the right path?  

The question I was asked has some problems theologically. Discipline is still an important part of sanctification.  But the question was very important to me, because it led me to realize that, according to Christ and by means of the Gospel, love is both the motivation for and the measure of obedience.  It does not replace Law, but it incorporates Law into a much more comprehensive and useful concept.

Here are a few analogies that can help people think through the relationship between Law and the Gospel. Note some things first: 1) in the analogies, I use the word love instead of Gospel, which should be a point of exploration when considering the relationship between the Law and the Gospel. 2) An analogy is only good for the points of correspondence or similarity that are intended. One should never take analogies or similes to extremes or in ways that they are not intended. 3) Therefore, one should hear analogies for what they say and not for what they do not say. In other words, they may point out similarities without denying other important ideas that may also be important.

So what are the points of similarity in the analogies below? Can you come up with your own analogies? Here are some to get you started:

  • Law is to love as studs are to insulation and sheet rock. 
  • Law is to love as rebar is to poured concrete.
  • Law is to love as science is to art.
  • Law is to love as outside is to inside.
  • Law is to love as over the shoulder is to from the heart.
  • Law is to love as rules are to wisdom.
  • Law is to love as a child is to an adult.
A summary of some of the points of similarity might be as follows:  Law provides structure to obedience, is external, universal, and absolute.  Love fills in the gaps of obedience, provides internal motivation, and is situational and non-absolute in applications.

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