God: Good Cop or Bad Cop?

The conflict between justice and grace is not a new one. It has been the basis of the conflict between Christ and Satan (Zechariah 3:1-4). Scripture tells us that God is love. Not that He has love, but that He is love (1 John 4:8).

Before sin and death entered this world, there was perfect harmony in the universe, as all created beings lived by this law of love: ?God made man perfectly holy and happy. . . . It is transgression of God?s law?the law of love?that has brought woe and death? (Ellen White, Steps to Christ, p. 9).

When humans disobeyed God, Satan thought he?d achieved the perfect checkmate. The law required that they should die, but love demanded forgiveness. Either way, God would lose. Transgression of the law could not be excused or ignored without risking the harmony of the universe, yet punishment and death would bring confusion and fear. It seemed that God had reached an impasse. Could He find a way to forgive humankind while still upholding the requirements of the law?

Yes, He could. The Creator Himself would die to satisfy the requirements of His own law. Only the Creator could be our Redeemer (Galatians 3:13, 14). Satan was appalled; the universe was appalled. Such sacrifice was unheard of?impossible! God would risk His very existence. Yet Love could do no less. In Christ?s sacrifice, justice and grace embraced (Psalm 85:10).

What does this mean for us today? The truth is, we were born on a quarantined planet. All its inhabitants are infected with the virus of sin. Our situation is desperate. The water of contamination has gone above all our heads. Yet many still quibble as to who is drowning more?those under a foot of water, or those under a mile. The reality is that but for the grace of God, we?re all doomed. It doesn?t matter how ?good? we?ve been?we were born infected (Romans 3:10). We are not fit to commune with the rest of the universe.

How does the law come into play? God has promised that if we but accept Christ?s sacrifice on our behalf and agree to allow His influence in our lives, He will rescue us and transform our nature to conform with the law of the universe, the law of love?the essence of who He is.

But how can 10 cold, negative commandments be God?s character? The flip side is that God could have given us hundreds of ?do?s,? yet He chose, instead, 10 simple ?no?s.? This world?s law libraries are filled with thousands of tomes on laws, rules, and ordinances. Only God could have summarized so effectively and succinctly the essence of who He is into only 10 laws.
If we look closely at the Ten Commandments, we see two principal themes repeated again and again: love and faithfulness. The issue is not whether we can ?keep? God?s law or ?break? it. The issue is, do we want the character of Jesus?

Jesus wants to engrave His character in our hearts so we can be fit to live with Him forever. He gently tells us: ?I survived the contamination of your planet. I have the antidote for sin. It will allow Me to rescue you, but if you resist, I cannot help you.?
The more we understand our condition and what He sacrificed to save us, the more our hearts will be softened with love and gratitude. By contemplating Jesus, we will be molded into mirror images of His qualities.

Scripture summarizes it beautifully: We are saved by God?s grace (Ephesians 2:4-10), and His continued presence in our life transforms us into harmony with His law (Psalm 19:7-14).

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