The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel

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Most of us have experienced this once or twice. The experience of going through the security line at airports is never a pleasurable one. It often involves taking off your belt, watch and your shoes, emptying your pockets of all their contents. And as stressful as any of it, it almost always requires enduring long lineups and lengthy wait times. And, to make matters worse, there is always someone who is “about to miss my flight!!” This is doubly problematic in the midst of an international trip. Even though you’ve been on a long flight already, having gone through another country’s security measures, the countries through which you transit are required to “re-check” security before permitting you to board another flight in their country. And so you go, rather like an unquestioning lemming, sometimes feeling rushed by the thought of missing the flight for which you’re already late. Recently, I was in such a situation. I had been on an international flight, and was at the security section in the transfer point of an international airport. I was feeling a bit pressed for time, because there wasn’t a great deal of turnaround time in the first place, and I wanted to grab lunch before the ongoing flight. But several people behind me in the line, was a young woman with a baby, (just about my granddaughter’s age, I imagined), whom I’d overheard on the previous flight we were both on, talking about needing to get to her husband, who’d been in some sort of accident. She was upset and stressed, our flight was delayed, and now she faced this slow lineup. She was pleading with folks to let her advance, because she needed to catch her ongoing flight which was departing imminently. Now, nobody knew the details I did, but most were nonetheless sympathetic and let her go forward. But then one man said “No!” He continued, “We’re all in the same boat here. You need to follow the rules. Wait your turn!” In principle, he seemed right. But he was clearly also wrong. Is there no way to understand the rules, or “the law”, that allows for something a little kinder and gentler? Jesus certainly understood it that way! This weekend we examined how Jesus interpreted the law to be something in the service of human beings, and not something that enslaves us.

Pr. Luther