Life without law lives outside the grace of authority. But true lawlessness would amount to disregarding both the commandments of external law and the law legislated by one’s inner nature. Perhaps the most paradoxical and compelling account of what it means to live against all law comes, ironically, from Christianity’s first great institutional organizer, Saint Paul. In Letters to the Romans, Paul links the notion of law in general to sin and decay, and suggests that death lives first through law.
‘What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.’