On the Nature of Divine Law
Thoughts from various authors
in a Church & Science e-mail list
A more appropriate term than "punishment" would be "consequences". When I stick my hand over a flame, I'm not punished with a burn; no judge comes along and inflicts a burn independently of the flame. The burn is just the natual consequence of exposing flesh to fire.
The "punishments" that accompany sin are like those that accompany disregard for careful behavior in a world full of sharp and hot objects, steep precipices, electrical outlets and power tools. And, as all such pains can be, under the care of a perfect physician, they're of finite duration and completely curable. And, in fact, it's the consequent pains that define sin: Sin is what hurts our souls. Grace and mercy through Christ's Atonement are the balms that cure the hurts, free for all who are willing to take them.
My parents have done all they can for many years to shield me from consequences, not letting me play with knives, putting the matches on upper shelves, and warning of the grievous consequences of playing in the street. Had they ever seen me play in the street, they would have risked everything to run out and get me to safety.
Forget hell-fire and brimstone. Sin carries its own punishment, God doesn't have to lift a finger to inflict it, nor does He want to, but He does so much more than lift fingers to keep us from getting into it, and healing us when we get into it anyway. As a bumper sticker said of gravity, it's not just a good idea, it's the law. A law that requires no judge, jury, or executioner. Next time you fall off a ladder, don't accuse God of making your landing a hard one.
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