Big-L or little-l law

By Dave Henning / July 23, 2014

In Chapter 3 of One Way Love, Pastor Tullian Tchividjian quotes Martin Luther’s characterization of the Law as “a voice that man can never stop in his life.”  The Law has a power of its own: it accuses.  Whether we consciously realize it or not, judgment and expectation are the root cause of much of our resentment, alienation, and rebellion.  We may worry about what others think of us, the demands of a job, or covering all our bases.  Such worries, the author notes, take up an inordinate amount of our headspace.

Pastor Tchividjian proceeds to distinguish between the two.  Big- L law is the Law of God, as described in the Bible.  It’s central to our existence and ingrained in our hardwiring.  Its everyday variations are of the little- l variety, as Paul Zahl describes:

“Law with a small ‘l’ refers to an interior principle of demand or ought that seems universal in human nature. . . . In daily living, law is an internalized principle of self-accusation.  We might say that the innumerable laws we carry inside are bastard children of the law.”

However, as Pastor Tchividjian points out, in terms of impact there is very little difference between the Law of God and the law we find in our culture.  While in general big- L law is good and holy and the other is arbitrary and cruel, that makes little difference if we feel we don’t measure up.

Today’s question: What legalisms influenced or controlled your previous ministry or vocation?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Addicted to law?”

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Dave Henning

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