The danger of being trapped by our human laws

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

WE, of course, need laws. Otherwise, our world would be in chaos. But we have to learn the different kinds of laws and know the importance, coverage and effectiveness of these laws.

Offhand, we can distinguish between divine law and human law, the natural law, which more or less governs the material order of our life and the world in general, and the moral law that looks into the spiritual and supernatural dimensions of our human acts. There are, of course, many other subsets of these general laws.

At the outset, what we have to be clear about is that our human laws should try their best to reflect the spirit of the divine law which is the source of all laws. This is where some tricky things will have to be dealt with as best that we can.

That’s because the divine law would always contain some mysteries that would be challenging for us to decipher in a precise way. Thus, we have to be wary of considering our human laws as containing the final say or judgment about everything. They can only go so far, and they are always in need of regular updating, enrichment and the like.

To know, for example, the relationship between truth and charity, justice and mercy would require not only the power of our rationality but also the power of God’s grace, the power of faith. It requires nothing less than pursuing in a vital way the goal of identifying ourselves with God in Christ who, in the end, is the pattern of our humanity since we are God’s image and likeness, sharers of his divine life and nature.

So, we have to be wary of the danger of being trapped by our human laws. That’s when we consider these laws as the ultimate guide of our life. When these human laws miss or even just loosen their necessary connection with God, the ultimate lawgiver, there is no way but for them to fall into some kind of legalism.

This danger was shown quite often during the time of Christ on earth. He was often accused of violating the Sabbath law because he did some miraculous cures on that Sabbath day when the law then specified that the Sabbath day should strictly be a day of rest where no work, not even caring for the sick, would be allowed.

That was what happened when Christ cured a paralytic who was waiting for his turn to get into miraculous water of the pool of Bethesda. (cfr. Jn 5,1-16) We may find that episode funny now, but it happened many times before and similar cases continue to happen up to now.

We need to see to it that our legal system is always vitally connected to the divine law, to an intimate relation with God in Christ who, being the very personification of love, fulfills all law, just as St. Paul said: “Love does not wrong to a neighbor; therefore love (Christ) is the fulfilment of the law.” (Rom 13,10)

We have to be wary when we make, interpret and apply our laws without this necessary spirit of Christ. When we would just depend on our human estimation of things, we cannot help but fall into some anomalies, inconsistencies and the like. We really need to acknowledge our need for God in Christ in anything that has to do with our human laws.