You can tell the Law because it is almost always and if-then proposition – If you follow all the rules in the Bible God then will love you and you will be happy. If you lose 20 pounds then you will be worthy to be loved. If you live a perfectly righteous Green eco lifestyle then you will be worthy of taking up space in the planet… The Law is always conditional and it is never anything anyone can do perfectly. When we treat Law as Gospel there can never be life and happiness and worthiness. Under the Law there are only 2 options: pride and despair. When fulfilling the “shoulds” is the only thing that determines our worthiness we are either prideful about our ability to follow the rules compared to others or we despair at our inability to perfectly do anything. Either way, it’s still bondage.
And that’s why the Gospel is different. The Gospel is not an if-then proposition. It’s more Wizard of Oz than that. The Gospel is a because because because because proposition. Because God is our creator and because we rebel against the idea of being created beings and insist on trying to be God for ourselves and because God will not play by our rules and because in the fullness of time when God had had quite enough of all of that God became human in Jesus Christ to show us who God really is andbecause when God came to God’s own and we received him not, and because God would not be deterred God went so far as to hang from the cross we built and did not even lift a finger to condemn but said forgive them they know not what they are doing and because Jesus Christ defeated even death and the grave and rose on the 3rd day and because we all sin and fall short and are forever turned in on ourselves and forget that we belong to God and that none of our success guarantee this and none of our failures exclude this and because God loves God’s creation God refuses for our sin and brokenness and inability to always do the right things to be the last word because God came to save and not to judge and therefore…therefore you are saved by grace as a gift and not by the works of the law and this truth will set you free like no self-help plan or healthy living or social justice work “shoulds” can ever do. ~ Nadia Bolz-Weber, Sarcastic Lutheran