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In Paul's letter to the Galatians (Galatians 3:13) he says that Christ has 'redeemed us from the curse of the law'. We have, in the past linked this passage with the one in Genesis (Genesis 3:17-19) which says that God cursed Adam after he sinned in the garden, by making him work by the sweat of his brow. However, we have been challenged (especially by some of our female members) about how it is that we sons of Adam have been 'redeemed from the curse' of having to work, at the same time that females continue to suffer the pain of childbirth, which was the curse on Eve when she was cast out of the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3:16)

What strikes me is that we may have made a mistake with regard to what the curse is in each case. Let us start with the phrase 'the curse of the law'. There really is no other passage of scripture in the Bible to support a belief that the 'law' was evil. On the contrary, Paul tells us that the law was 'holy'. (Romans 7:12) So what if the 'curse' is really just something that ACCOMPANIES or flows from the law? Paul talked about people disobeying the rules and then being punished as a result, and described that as one way that the law led to an unhappy ending for each of us. And he did this in the same context with his statement that it was not the fault of the law itself. (Romans 7:7-16)

There may be another way in which the 'law' ends up being abused, and that is in how people become religiously self-righteous about it when they focus only on those rules that they are personally able to keep, and when they avoid those rules that cover areas where they have fallen short. This is another situation where it is not the law that is evil, but it is the way that people have falsely applied it.

Now let's move to the curse that was put on Adam. Was the curse really 'work'? And have we Jesus Christians really been given a life that is free from work? No way! Many of us work harder now than we ever did before we discovered the teachings of Jesus and what it means to live by faith. The difference, however, is that we are not operating as slaves, or labouring under a fear of starving to death. Instead, our 'work' is a labour of love in service to Christ. In fact, it is almost impossible for us to imagine a life without work. So, like the 'law', work in itself can be a blessing if we can escape from the misapplication of it that has blinded the world since the days of Adam. We have stopped working for money and out of fear, and have started working for love and out of faith. In doing so, we beat the curse, but we do not eliminate work.

Now, we come to the subject of pain. Just as greed is something that affects us all (although it is traditionally the man in Western society that makes the money), so pain is something that affects us all, even though it is specifically the pain of childbirth that is referred to in the curse that was placed on Eve. This specific illustration of pain may be important because it really would be wrong for us to teach that all pain is good. We are not masochists, but we do recognise that every good goal will involve some sacrifices before one can reach it. In some ways, pain and work are much the same... just facts of life which, in their own strange way, actually contribute to our enjoyment of life.

From this we can see that childbirth is a particularly good illustration. The Bible makes special reference to how a woman suffers during labour, but quickly forgets it when her baby is finally born. (John 16:21) It is the goal which makes the pain worthwhile. On the other hand, it is our fear of death which gives pain its 'sting'. When we know that some period of suffering is for our good (e.g. a visit to the dentist), the pain becomes more bearable. So what we need is a purpose which transcends even death.

The Christian message of life after death brings meaning to sufferings which are not rewarded in this life. As Paul said to the Corinthians, "Oh death, where is thy sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55) So we come to the same conclusion about pain that we came to about the law and about work, i.e. that it is not a curse in itself... that it is, in fact, a very good thing when we eliminate the curse which is usually attached to it. The curse of pain is fear of death, and, to a lesser extent, lack of purpose. When we have a big enough goal, the sufferings that we encounter along the way become incidental. The sufferings of this present life become a small price to pay for the great inheritance that is laid up for us in another life and another dimension. (Romans 8:18)

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