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Law and Sin

December 1, 2021 • 7 min

St. Paul talks a lot about the law, and that it’s good, and St. John talks a lot about lawlessness, and that it’s evil. In fact, St. Paul calls the Antichrist the lawless one, and St. John says there are many antichrists before the final one. What can we learn from all this?

It has been said, “restrictions breed creativity.” When you have no limits, it’s difficult to make a decisive choice. But within limits and bounds, we can do amazing things.

Every law is a kind of limit. But God’s law it isn’t an arbitrary limit. His divine law is like a fence, protecting us from a barren desert, or a wall that stops the waves of the wild sea from destroying everything along the shore.

This is related to the concept I explained in the last blog post: that evil is nothingness. In fact, that’s where the word “naughty” comes from, the idea of having “naught” or nothing. Because virtue is something, but sin is a lack of virtue.

Following God’s law is not a burden, but safety from the dangers of the destructive nature of sin. Because by sinning, we lose everything and gain nothing, since by it we gain evil, and evil is nothingness. But God is everything, and the source of everything.

This is why the penitent sinner in Jesus’s parable said “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” He wasn’t exaggerating, or using hyperbole. He wasn’t like one of those people who pretend to be humble, thinking on the inside how great they really are, and even more great because they call themselves humble.

Rather, he recognized that he himself had no source of goodness in himself. That he could only find goodness in God, who is infinitely good, the source of all goodness and perfection, and the only Way for us to gain any good, or become good, or have anything good in ourselves—all of these are different ways of saying the same thing.

Never look at sin as something you should want, and something you wish you had. It’s actually a lack of something that’s truly good and that God wants to give you, and is waiting to give you! If you catch yourself wishing you could commit some sins, and only stopping yourself because you think it’s “against the rules”, or because you don’t want punishment, just remind yourself of these facts.

If you break God’s law, and he sends you a punishment, take it patiently! It’s a good sign.

First of all, it means he’s accepting you back—whether you’ve turned back towards him already, or whether is trying to call you back. In the Revelation to St. John, Jesus said:

Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:19, RSVCE)

Second of all because it means your punishment will soon be over. Depending on how much you turn your heart towards God, he can make the punishment very small. Much smaller than you’d expect or think. St. Peter says:

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you. (1 Peter 5:10, RSVCE)

Because, remember, his punishments aren’t arbitrary, but the main purpose of them is to turn you back to him, to turn you away from the evil that you’ve began to absorb into your soul, which is harming you and turning you away from God gradually.

It’s true, his other reason for punishing is justice, but he has all eternity to dish out the full measure of justice. And even before then, he can reserve a lot of it to Purgatory, in which we’re completely safe from abandoning God, so he can give us the full measure of punishment remaining—excepting, of course, the whole amount he has taken away from it through his own Passion and Death.

Which means, in this life, God focuses his punishments through the lens of his mercy, so to speak, so that it’s almost entirely guided towards turning us back to him, and away from anything that could harm us—especially the poison of sin.

And thirdly, that punishment is going to make you really good, and being good makes us really happy. Even in this life! I trust you’re already good now, but who would dare to say they can’t get any better? God wants to make you better than you are now. Which also means you will be happier than you are now.

So stay close to God, and obey him, no matter what happens—even if he seems to be punishing you—and you will be safe:

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John 15:10-14, RSVCE)

Because if you have love, you are safe from ever breaking God’s laws, since you are with God, and so you are within the safe boundaries of his Law, his safe protecting walls against the storm of temptation.

This is why St. John says:

Every one who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.

You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.

No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him.

Little children, let no one deceive you.

He who does right is righteous, as he is righteous.

He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God.

By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil:

whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother.

For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another (1 John 3:4-11, RSVCE)

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