Nobody likes to feel judged. We get defensive when someone points out we’re less than perfect: who do they think they are, anyways? One of the reasons moral law is rejected, and one of the reasons Christians are accused of being “legalistic” is because by highlighting God’s law, peoples’ lives are shown to be defective.

But there’s another component: the fact that we look at ourselves at all. The self-centred life is consumed with itself, its needs, wants and agendas, and especially How It Compares To Others.

The Law is the ultimate yardstick. It shows us that we are no big deal, and worse, that we are failures. The moral law is a mirror that isn’t at all flattering, and (let’s be honest) we resent it being pointed out. But it’s  only a teacher. By highlighting our less-than-stellar performance, it points us in the end not to ourselves, but to relationship for mercy and acceptance.

A fundamental characteristic of successful relationships is that we focus on the other, rather than ourselves. The Law does not flatter us: no worries. We’re not supposed to be concentrating on that anyways, save as a guidepost to something better. And that is exactly what  a relationship with Jesus is all about. We are called out of selfishness, called out of concern with ourselves and our shortcomings (though it is a veil we must pass through to realize the necessity of this new life. To bring us to the point of dismay over our own attempts at  goodness, the law is a necessary teacher), to relationship; to the heart of Love. By the Law we see  our shortcomings; but grace tells us to look not to our own goodness, but to Jesus as the basis of our relating to God.

And another thing: when we are thus occupied, we  care less what others think of us, not because we feel superior or inferior (it’s a non-issue) but because we care more for what God thinks of us than what the rest of the world does. This is a genuine freedom.

As we draw near to God, we either feel small and dirty next to His holiness, or we don’t think of ourselves at all. As C.S. Lewis points out, the latter option is preferable. Besides, how can we love perfectly when we are busy thinking about ourselves? By being called  into vulnerability and relationship, we find our ultimate healing.

It’s like fussing and fretting over our reflection when our date is at the door, waiting for us. But He sees us, not by the reflection in the mirror – however true it is to life – but in the light of His love; because He sees what He made us to be.