Pastor Mark Anderson, Lutheran Church of the Master, Corona del Mar, California
I have written before and included in many sermons the observation that the endless cycle of the demand for justice – seeking is the legal cycle within which the world is trapped. The fundamental error, the wrong move we make here is in thinking that the law is actually the remedy for injustice. It is not. For the law cannot change the one thing that actually would make a difference: the human heart. For the human heart goes its own way and insists on a free will that pursues “the right” within the law and demands justice, but it never arrives.
The problem is not that hard to see. If the law is the vehicle by which we realize justice then what drives the free will is the pursuit and the demand that life should be something that it currently is not. The assumption here is that the pursuit of perfect justice, righteousness and so forth is what life is for because, in the end, God, life itself, is to be equated with pursuing the fulfillment of law. Even the die-hard secularist who is passionate about justice but has no time for God, has made of the ideal of justice a god of law. The free will values the law above everything because it seems to be the tool for the pursuit and fulfillment of life itself. Either way, religious or not, seeking justice or righteousness in law assumes that this is what finally matters. Then the Gospel shows up.
And what happens? Another word from God enters the world of ‘free wills’ pursuing justice in the law and declares that justice is to be found, apart from and outside the law! And that justice is not an ideal to be pursued. That justice is located in a person, Jesus Christ. God has pulled a fast one on sinners who pride themselves that their freely willing wills are what establish them, and done some free willing of His own. For Christ’s sake and for no other reason, God wills that sinners are forgiven – apart from the law. The apostle Paul made it about as clear as it can be:
“For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.”
The sinner, in the initial hearing of this external word of God’s gracious promise, hears only a word that intrudes on the so-called free will. In fact, throughout life, the old Adam and Eve in us are constantly offended, annoyed, miffed at this gracious Word from God. So God must deliver it again and again in the external word and sacraments in order to keep us in faith.
In Jesus, God has bestowed Himself upon sinners, opening, revealing His heart. And what we see in this revelation is that it is not holiness in the law (whether sacred or secular) that makes life worth living or justifies us, but the cross. For in the Cross, God refused to pull rank on us and bind us in the law. Instead, in the gracious forgiveness of our sin, He has removed the shackles of the law and set us free. This gracious freedom is a terror and offense to the world and free wills. But to those to whom it is given, it is the sweetest bliss and the most exquisite mercy.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in
Christ Jesus our Lord.”