IN the gospel, many are the instances where Christ had to correct the leading Jews at that time for their too strict and too literal interpretation of their laws. (cfr. Lk 13,10-17) These Jews acted as if they had the exclusive possession of what is right, moral and legal just by citing their laws. Obviously, they themselves could not follow those laws to the letter. And Christ pointed that out to them.
We obviously need to craft laws to guide our life in common. But we need to understand that since these laws are human laws, they cannot capture everything involved in man’s life that can also involve spiritual, let alone, supernatural realities. Even in the level of our ordinary human affairs, complicated situations can take place that can go beyond the purview of our legal system. Depicting justice as a blindfolded woman with a weighing scale tells us a lot about this predicament.
We should be wary of our tendency to fall into legalism, formalism and political correctness. Thus, Christ bewailed this common danger among the leading Jews by saying, “Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God. These you should have done, without overlooking the others. Woe to you Pharisees! You love the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces. Woe to you! You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.” (Lk 11,42-44)
We should always be on guard against all these forms of inconsistency, always rectifying our intentions and also regularly editing our life, much like what writers do with their work before they are submitted for publication. That way, we can monitor how things are going and can have the chance to make appropriate corrections, improvements, revisions, etc.
Our human laws are meant to lead us to our ultimate goal which is none other than to be with God, to be holy as God is holy, etc. Irrespective of their immediate temporal purpose, our laws should lead us little by little to become God’s image and likeness as we are meant to be. They in the end should serve the fundamental religious purpose of our life. That should always be the constant purpose of our laws.
All the other objectives of our laws, let alone their technical requirements, serve only as an occasion, a reason or motive for this ultimate purpose. Setting aside this ultimate purpose would empty our laws of their real legitimacy, making them rife for all kinds of manipulations and maneuverings by some shrewd men who may enjoy some power at a given moment.
We have to realize that it is Christ who ultimately gives the real meaning and purpose of our laws. We have to disabuse ourselves from the thought that our laws can be based only on our common sense, or on our own estimation of what is good and evil according to the values of practicality, convenience, etc., or on our traditions and culture, etc.
While these things have their legitimate role to play in our legal and judicial systems, we have to understand that they cannot be the primary and ultimate bases. It should be God, his laws and ways that should animate the way we make laws as well as the way we apply and live them. After all, being the Creator of all things, he is the one who establishes what is truly good and evil.