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The Law and Grace (1)

On my way to the US in 1980, I stopped over in England to see my brother, Tunde Oladiran, a student in Cransfield Institute of Technology, Bedford. He is today a Professor of Mechanical Engineering. He took me to a place in London he called ‘Freedom Square’. It is a place devoid of the law. He told me that one could say or do anything there without being prosecuted. Imagine what will happen if every place in London or Nigeria is like that! The law is very important, but it has its limits. We will start from its limitations to its merits.

The law, like the mirror, only reflects things behind it. It considers wrong things done, but has no space should the offender repent of it and then turns a new leaf. If a murderer owns up his crime in the court, with an assurance that he will never commit it again, the law will still have its full toll on him. The law is difficult to keep, for if you break one of them, you have broken all. One day, as the Jewish leaders brought a woman they caught in adultery to Jesus, He told them to cast a stone on her, if they had not committed any sin before. They bowed out. If the law could not be kept by its makers, interpreters and prosecutors, who else can?

The law, like the mirror, is mere smoke, without fire. The mirror cannot remove any ugly thing it reflects, such as vegetable bits in-between the teeth. The law is like that. It cannot correct any wrong deeds. ‘By the deeds of the law, shall no man be justified in His sight,’ says the Bible. The mirror’s reflection is limited to its circumference. If it is turned to one’s face, it will not show how the back and the feet are. This is true of the law. It does not show everything about a person. It covers only things that have been legislated upon. The mirror can be deceptive, made to magnify or reduce the real size of the object within its focus. This is also true of the law. The applicable law in which the woman was arrested was clear on adultery, but Jesus said in Matt. 5: 21-22, that looking at a woman lustfully was tantamount to it.

In law, an offender can escape justice if no one sees him. In 2001, I allowed a Nigerian youth to share the chalet I was assigned to, in Nottingham, England, during an International Conference. After the one week programmme, he drove me to the residence of Smart, my friend, where I would stay for a week. I was surprised, when he gave me a nylon bag full of things he had bought for me and also One hundred Pounds, saying that he knew me in Lagos. I was still appreciating him, when the wife of my friend rebuked him for urinating in front of their house. Uncle never knew that the lady saw him doing that. I wondered why he should urinate there. The lady would not have condemned him if she had not caught him!

It was strange that the Jewish leaders brought a woman to Jesus for committing adultery. Can a woman commit adultery alone? Where was her partner in crime? Perhaps, Uncle was a Nigerian, who knew how to settle the law enforcement officers, or he simply ran away, leaving Aunty to pay for their common sin. Imagine! In law, justice may depend on the interpretation of the offended law. A lawyer, through a coma, colon, etc, can help an offender to escape justice.   

Another problem of the law is that, like the mirror, it is not emotional. If someone is mourning and he is going to bury his Dad, if he looks at the mirror, it may point out anything wrong on his face, not considering the prevailing situation. The law is like that. That woman they condemned to death for committing adultery might be the only child of the parents, but the law did not consider that. She might be nursing a two-month-old baby. The law did not consider it. Her husband might be sick, in fact, at the point of death, the law did not consider it. The custodians of the law told Jesus what the law said: ‘Death by stoning’.  No emotion! Lawyers tell us that, whoever goes to equity must go with clean hands and even in their equitable estoppels, an accused cannot plead it. It is left at the discretion of the trial judge. Imagine!

The merit of the mirror is that it creates awareness.  When you look at yourself in it, it points out how you are.  This is what the law does. It pointed at what the woman did: she broke the law. She did not deny the accusation. The Jewish leaders, the custodian of the law, recited before Jesus, what she did and the position of the law on it – death by stoning. The law thus leads to the knowledge of sin – Rom 3:20. If there is no law, nobody will feel guilty when he commits any sin. Why do people, including children, manufacture lies when they do evil? It is the law that makes them know that what they have done is wrong, before they are confronted by someone. Nobody would have known that what the woman did was wrong, if there was no law.   

     A mirror tells the story as it is, as it does not discriminate. If you did not comb your hair, whether you are black or white, rich or poor, the mirror tells you. The law, on the contrary, can be selective, made to favour some people, or vindictive towards perceived enemies and some other people, unfortunately, become victims of circumstances. Why was King David not stoned when he committed adultery? A mirror is a guide. The car mirror, for example, guides the motorist as he drives. It tells him what is behind him and at his sides, so that he can navigate properly. If he senses any danger, he can speed up. The law is also a guide for conduct, telling you what to do or what to avoid for good conduct and for safety. In the issue of adultery, the law was clear. No man should sleep with his neighbour’s daughter or wife, but the woman and her sinful companion, did that.

     The law leads to the knowledge of God. Aunty broke the law by committing adultery. The Jewish leaders brought her to the Lord Jesus. If there was no law, she would not have been brought to Him. That was, perhaps, the first time she came close to Him. Gal. 3:24 tells us that the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ for justification. It is cheering that the law had brought her to Jesus for justification. After reciting what the law said, they asked Jesus, ‘But what do You say?’ The crafty custodians of the law, by implication, had admitted that the law is not an end by itself but a means to an end. The end of all things, including the law, is Jesus – Rom 10:4.

  For further comment, Please contact: Osondu Anyalechi:  0802 3002-471; [email protected]

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