Law Begets Resistance

This illustration from Paul Zahl is a helpful one:

Suppose a woman marries someone who really loves her. But he has a couple of personal sensitivities. He does not like a mess. In fact, he is a little obsessive about order. He is always picking up after her and implying, by doing so, that she is a slob. This sensitivity of his did not seem very important at first. Other aspects of their life together were good. But the older he gets, the more anxious he becomes when she is just being herself. It’s a problem between them, if you want to know the truth. He is becoming more “Type A” in relation to the house, and his wife feels like becoming more “type B.” Sometimes she just wants to take the trash and strew it out in the middle of the living room. She is aggravated by his aroma of accusation.

Initially, this marriage had grace in it. But the law, beginning with a fairly small thing, took over. The more he judges her, the more messy she wants to be. “Law came in, with the result that the trespasses multiplied” (Romans 5:20). We know, from the gospel of grace, that if he would just stop noticing (she calls him “Mr. Notice-It-All”), she would probably start picking up her things. Grace begets grace. Law begets resistance.