You’re driving down the road. You’re on the highway and the posted speed limit is fifty-five miles per hour. You find yourself a bit distracted by the phone that’s alerting you on the seat next to you and you’re wondering how important that alert is. So you look down to grab your phone, even though you know you aren’t supposed to.
Just then you notice the trooper camped on the side of the highway next to you and about that same time. You look at your speedometer and notice you’re doing more than sixty-five miles per hour. And almost reflexively your foot comes off the gas pedal and your phone slowly goes back down to the seat next to you where it belongs.
What happened in that reflex?
Did you immediately just start thinking to yourself “Wow I love Jesus and I think so much of what he has done for me.” Or did you just have a moment of self-preservation where you realized “I don’t want to get a ticket.” And so you quickly did that thing that would hopefully keep you from getting a self penalty.
That’s God’s law.
It’s not killing you per se. It’s another function, maybe a sub-function, of God’s law. It is curbing you. It is quickly keeping you from self-injury and perhaps doing injury to another.
Saint Paul speaks of such a curbing function or a curbing role of God’s law. He writes it this way to the Romans. “When the Gentiles,” that is those who don’t know God,
When the Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law… these show the work of the law written in their hearts. (Romans 2:14-15)
This is the word of God’s law acting as a curb. Keeping us both from self-harm and also from harming our neighbor around us. They have a quick and immediate application that it guards our neighbor from us and that even guards us from ourselves because God loves the body and life he has given to us and the one that he is given to his neighbor.
But finally, this role or function of the law sears our conscience only so that God can deliver to that conscience a Word of Life. Life in his Son. This is God at work for you. Amen.