What About the Law? Galatians 3:1-9, 23-29

 Galatians 3:1-10  The Message

You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a spell on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives. His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before you clearly enough.

2-4 Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!

5-6 Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you? Don’t these things happen among you just as they happened with Abraham? He believed God, and that act of belief was turned into a life that was right with God.

7-8 Is it not obvious to you that persons who put their trust in Christ (not persons who put their trust in the law!) are like Abraham: children of faith? It was all laid out beforehand in Scripture that God would set things right with non-Jews by faith. Scripture anticipated this in the promise to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed in you.”

9-10 So those now who live by faith are blessed along with Abraham, who lived by faith—this is no new doctrine! And that means that anyone who tries to live by his own effort, independent of God, is doomed to failure. Scripture backs this up: “Utterly cursed is every person who fails to carry out every detail written in the Book of the law.”

23-24 Until the time when we were mature enough to respond freely in faith to the living God, we were carefully surrounded and protected by the Mosaic law. The law was like those Greek tutors, with which you are familiar, who escort children to school and protect them from danger or distraction, making sure the children will really get to the place they set out for.

25-27 But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe—Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s original promise.

28-29 In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, since you are Christ’s family, then you are Abraham’s famous “descendant,” heirs according to the covenant promises.

 +++

Surely we understand God’s grace better than the first Gentile Christians. Surely we know the difference between being good people and being Christians.  And yet, I think we, like the Galatians, have to have it spelled out for us from time to time.

The Gentile converts were put in the position of having to follow all Jewish traditions, which included following all the laws. Like so many people, the Jewish people put great store in the law.  If one followed all the commandments, that pleased God and God would have mercy on them. (FYI, that is bad or wrong theology, but it is human nature to think like that).

From Cradle Roll on, we learn the ten commandments.  We hear Bible stories that glorify people doing good things—feeding people, healing people, helping people. It’s no wonder that we think we have to do good things to please God, to earn God’s love and grace.

In fact, we cannot ever do enough to earn God’s grace. We can never be perfect enough to warrant God’s mercy. We are, sad to say, sinners.  Even though we are created in the image of a sinless God, we sin. Every day.  Thoughts.  Words.  Deeds.

 It’s funny how following the Law becomes an obsession with us. The thing is, we often worry more about how other people follow the law. We’re more aware of the sins of others than we are of our own.  How often do you watch the news or exchange local gossip and automatically convert all the wrongs in the world into all the sins of the people in the news or the neighborhood? 

Am I the only one who does that?  Some of my friends, for instance, think that police brutality would end if everybody would just obey the law.  Some of my friends think that if everybody would get a job, the economy would right itself. Some of my friends believe that government is the answer; some of my friends believe that government is the problem. Some of my friends believe that unemployment benefits provide financial stability; some of my fiends believe that unemployment benefits make people lazy.  

Where do the Ten Commandments come in? Love God. Love your neighbor.  What does love look like? How does God know that I love God?  Think about the Ten Commandments as a mirror. If I look into that mirror, what do I see? If this mirror is made honestly, I see myself as worshipping God, as paying attention to God, as keeping God at the forefront of my efforts and desires.  I see myself honoring parents and children and the unique relationship among families.  I see myself being satisfied with what I have. I see myself treating people kindly and seeing the good in everyone, from the screaming baby to the angry politician. At least that’s what I want to see. Sometimes I see myself trying to get along without God, trying to use my own human logic to solve problems.  Sometimes I see myself judging others, looking for their faults, criticizing their decisions. Sometimes I want more than I need. Sometimes I am afraid to share, for fear that I will have to do without.  Sometimes I find family and marriage to be too confining, too demanding.  Sometimes I daydream about what could be instead of being thankful for what is.

And what does God see when God sees Dianne looking in the mirror of God’s laws?

God sees someone lovable, someone with potential, someone made in God’s image. God sees the person God created to love and be loved.  

God sees someone who has no hope of being perfect, no hope of keeping every commandment. So what did God do? God sent the perfect Son to be not only God, but also to be human.  That Son, Jesus, walked the same paths we walk, felt the same “feels” we feel, and, because he did not sin, was able to conquer sin. He did not conquer sin for himself or for God. He conquered sin for us, so that we could, despite our obvious guilt, could be united with God forever. 

Do we need the Law, the Ten Commandments?  Yes.  We need to review everyday what it means to be freed from sin.  When we are freed from sin, we are freed to love God and love our neighbor.  The commandments show us how. We don’t have to depend on our own judgment, we don’t have to depend on the laws that society or the government has written, to show our love for God and for all of God’s children.

If God, who is perfect beyond imagination can love us, surely it is worth the effort to acknowledge God’s great mercy and love to our fullest capacity. 

It is easy to think that “being good” is all it takes to please God.  We don’t have to please God. God loves us unconditionally.  You may have had to please your teacher, your parents, your spouse, your boss. God doesn’t want to be pleased. God wants to be worshipped. God wants to be honored.  God wants to be adored.  And God gives it right back to us in grace and mercy and unconditional love.  Amen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s