I was struck this morning as I read in Galatians – Paul is dealing with people who are trying to make the Galatian Christians keep aspects of the Jewish law. His response really spoke to me:
Have some of you noticed that we are not yet perfect? (No great surprise, right?) And are you ready to make the accusation that since people like me, who go through Christ in order to get things right with God, aren’t perfectly virtuous, Christ must therefore be an accessory to sin? The accusation is frivolous. If I was “trying to be good,” I would be rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down. I would be acting as a charlatan.
What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.
Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.Galatians 2:17-21
I love his “rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down” line. It can be so easy to fall into rule-keeping and legalistic habits that this world just seems to reinforce. So much of religion is based on what I do, how I balance the scales to earn my way into heaven.
The line that really spoke to me was, “I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man.”
For me, it comes down to why you do what you do. If you are focused on rules and doing things because you are trying to earn something or justify yourself, then you’ve missed the point – his last line speaks to that so perfectly: “If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.”
I think much of the problem is that our society is so earning oriented that the concept of grace is just foreign and tough to really accept. So many well-meaning Christians fall into law-keeping and trying to earn their way that they lose the why in their relationship with God.
There’s an excellent song that this passage made me think of by MercyMe
I get the feeling that I’ll wrestle with the tension between performance-based thinking and feeling like I’m not doing things right or doing enough and the reality that God is a better parent than I could ever be and I love my kids completely no matter whether they are super thoughtful and successful or struggling and distracted. Most days, I feel like the latter and wonder how God could love me, mess and all.
I’m thankful for this reminder of what I’ve been given in Christ and the proper motivation for the choices that I make each day of how to live and speak and think. I pray that I’m always motivated by love and thankfulness for my gift of right-relationship with my Creator through faith in Christ and His sacrifice.