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.

Unwittingly Blind

I was reading this morning in John Chapter 9 and was struck by the assumptions made by various people in the interactions surrounding Jesus’ healing of the man blind from birth. Among the assumptions was a belief, common at the time this was occurring, that negative circumstances were the direct result of sin in the lives of those involved.

When Jesus and his disciples first see the man born blind, because of this assumption, his disciples ask him if the man’s blindness is the result of his sin or his parents. Jesus immediately sets them straight and explains that the man’s blindness is not the result of sin, but rather so that the power of God could be seen in him.

Which brings me to my first observation – how many times have I bemoaned some perceived deficit in my life or the lives of those around me, when the God-intended purpose of the handicap or shortcoming was to reveal the power of God through it?

Later in the account, the Pharisees are questioning the man who can now see and are asking him how Jesus was able to give him sight. The man gets frustrated with their repeated questions and says:

“Look!” the man exclaimed. “I told you once. Didn’t you listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”

At this, the Pharisees are outraged – they take offense to what he’s said and get defensive, cursing the man and saying that they are disciples of Moses and they don’t even know where Jesus comes from.

I feel like at this point, the man who can now see is so annoyed at the Pharisees’ unwillingness to see what is in front of them that he doesn’t even think about who he’s talking to – his parents were afraid to say much when they were questioned because the Pharisees had the power to expel people from the synagogue, effectively cutting them off from normal Jewish life. He comes back with the following, slightly smart-alecky reply:

“Why, that’s very strange!” the man replied. “He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know where he comes from? 31 We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will. 32 Ever since the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he couldn’t have done it.”

Their reply brings me to my next observation:

“You were born a total sinner!” they answered. “Are you trying to teach us?” And they threw him out of the synagogue.

Their arrogance and misconceptions made them unable to see what was plain to see for the man who once was blind, but could now see (what a cool layer of meaning!). Jesus was fulfilling prophecy right before their eyes and they refused to see him for what he was. Was it because they honestly didn’t see and believe? Did they willfully choose not to believe because it would threaten their way of life and cause them to lose the things they held dear, like their place of power and honor in Jewish society?

All of this is speculation, but it does point to things that I can relate to, questions I ask myself:

What misconceptions do I have in my life about the way things work? How do they cause me to see things differently than I should? Do I arrogantly assume that I know God’s motivations in my life and the lives of those around me? Do I think that I see clearly, but I’m really blind to the truth of what God is trying to show me?

God, help me to let go of assumptions and arrogance, believing that I know and understand more than I do. Keep me humble and always seeking to see your truth, eyes wide open to see what challenges and troubles have to show me of your power and glory. Thank you for your gentle correction and guidance, and especially for your patience with this foolish daughter of yours. I am thankful for your love and care in my everyday life and in awe of your concern for me, I surely don’t deserve it.