What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. [Romans 7:7-12 ESV]
What is it about righteousness which inspires the non-Christian to such hatred? Ultimately, it is the Law of God and the eternal character of God behind the Law which drives the unrighteous to such extremes. Without the Law there would be no standard to judge, convict and sentence. Do you remember the temptation of the first sin?
“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. [Genesis 3:5-6 ESV]
Eve, and Adam, were tempt with equality with God, thus not needing God. If I do not need God and am capable of making my own decisions, according to the wisdom found within me, then I certainly cannot allow God, formerly my owner, to control or judge my words, attitudes and actions. Rejecting God does not steal any of His position and power away from Him. Rejecting Him does leave us with the inner bent, the attitude and motivation to ignore Him. When He cannot be ignored we become fearful and angry, motivated to destroy the thing which makes us both fearful and angry. Since we cannot destroy God or the Law which judges us we are left with the desire to destroy those who represent God and His Law.
Pay attention. It is not that we keep the Law and are therefore righteous. We do not keep the Law. We are as sinful as any in the world. Christians have recognized their sin, accepting the truth of its existence, of its reality, and of its devastating consequences. We know intimately the price paid by Christ to redeem us from the slavery of sin, that we do not deserve God’s mercy and love. We acknowledge God’s justice, according to His Law, and His absolute right to exercise judgment, condemnation and sentence against any and all who violate His Law. Upon Jesus’ shoulders was placed our sin and He bore the justified consequences of our rebellion. He took our sin and gave us, as a gift, His righteousness. His righteousness was credited to us, not earned or purchased or acquired in any other way. We are not righteous because we keep any of the Law. We are righteous because He kept all of the Law. Like Abraham, we believe God, take Him at His word, and are declared righteous before Him.
It is the Law, the very eternal character of God represented by the Law, which inspires such violence and hatred by those rebelling against the Author of the Law and the Creator of those made in His image.
As God works in the Christian, building the image and likeness of His Son into those who are His, the Christian slowly, with great effort and discipline, exhibits to the world the evidence of God’s righteousness. As He purges sin from us, preparing us for eternity with Him, He uses us as a witness to the world. By living righteous lives, motivated by the Spirit of God in us, we live out the Law without becoming legalistic and convict those around us of their sin and Lawlessness. Some will see, be convicted and repent, drawn to God by His desire for them. All of the others, refusing to see the truth of their rebellion against God, will seek to silence the attitudes, words and actions of those declared righteous by God.
Persecution will come, not because of our righteousness but because of Christ’s righteousness in us. To understand this better, I am going to try to examine the Law, the Ten Commandments, to understand how the Christian keeps them and why the world hates them.