For law or for relationship? (Part III)

“You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” Galatians 5:4

The two are not one. That is, choosing the law is in essence rejecting a relationship with Christ. All this time, I imagined that our choices are ours, and they lead to the same end. Yet, I hear Paul saying something different. That is, we really have no other choice but to choose relationship over the law. And it makes sense to me given the fact that Christ came all this way to earth to die that we should live; but instead of saying yes, we continue with our laws and traditions, because that’s what we know. But, Galatians 5:4 says, grace and law cannot co-exist. Let’s put it this way, “and if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” Romans 11:6.

READ MORE: PART I

Do you remember the time when Jesus Christ walked into the synagogue and turned over the table? Let BBQ refresh your memory:

BBQ the meeting house

I can see how the people in the synagogue would look at Jesus as a crazy (and rebellious) person. Why? Well, He just mixed up their money making schemes! And the sad part is that they didn’t see what they were doing. In their eyes, gambling in the house of God became acceptable. But, not so in God’s eyes. Christ came to get rid of these old ways of thinking. His action of turning over the table, was a symbolism for what He would later do on the cross, turn our worlds upside down.

We live our lives with such carelessness. The bible tells us that the birds know how to live with no care for tomorrow. But, this isn’t the same kind of carelessness we exhibit. The birds know where their help comes from. All of nature knows who their creator is, and they hardly deviate from what they are made for. But, humans on the other hand, we find all kinds of ways to go against the goodness that is inside of us. Rather than love, we choose hate. Rather than purity, we choose promiscuity. Rather than peace, we choose war. You see, this doesn’t happen in the animal kingdom. Having recently watched Mowgli, The Legend of the Jungle (a Disney animation), I got a sense that the animals don’t kill their own unless they have to. “Killing is not a sport,” the Panther told Mowgli. The animals kill to eat for their survival. Humans have gone against the nature of why we were created. We are callous about life, and we kill for sport! We, the ones who should be caretaker of this great planet, act like it’s not ours to care for. It’s like we have a mask over our eyes, maybe because we are desensitized by media. We do not know who we are. We are lost, unfocused, and we live for this world. We live with no realization that we have power.

I say all that because maybe if we knew whose we are, the one who made us, then we wouldn’t have too much trouble making a distinction between being obedient to the law versus allegiance to our Creator. This takes time. I mean do you give honour to the pottery for creating itself? No, you choose to honour the one who made the pottery. Likewise, we worship the one who made us. Through worship, we acknowledge that we have a Maker. Through worship we draw close to Him. When we do that, we also get closer to who we are. Only the Maker knows the purpose of all His creation. We spend a lot of time trying to find ourselves. We look in the caves, we look in the books, we look to Hollywood stars…and we call them idols! Yet, we never think to look above, or maybe within. Seek Him, and He will be found. Let’s be honest, God is always right there, and we know it. It takes a terrible accident…you know when we have no other choice, to call on God. And what’s amazing is that He answers every time. He is always there, waiting for His children to acknowledge Him.

READ MORE: PART II

That’s what makes it difficult for God when we decide to choose the law. We are moving away from Him, and towards these idols. We follow scrolls of words or traditions that say do this, and do that. Yet, we don’t always connect the dots. As such, the law alienates us from Christ. That’s just it. The law makes us think we are good and our ability to do the right thing makes us have no need for grace. You don’t need grace when you feel you are justified by your actions. What happens when your works can no longer justify you? You know the day you make that terrible mistake? That one mistake that cause you to run far away from God and you live in isolation from Him. If you knew Him, you would know this, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3. Why do we decide to run away when we do something wrong? (Adam and Eve did this, Judas did this, Jacob did this). It’s natural. The truth is though, we run because we do not know that Christ have died for that reason. He already knew that we would fall, and that’s why he made sure that grace will always lift us up. Because, it has never been our deeds that saved us, and the most amazing thing is that it never will be.

Do not fall from grace. Without grace, we will no longer have purpose to live. We can not trust ourselves, our laws, or our religion to save us. Our reminder is that, Christ died for us…so that we will be free, so that we do not have to trust in our good works. So that we do not need the law.

For law or for relationship?

“Listen! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you at all!” Galatians 5:2

Have you ever being told to do things because “it was the law?” or “this is what we do?” But never understood the reason for doing so? I am reminded of a story about a wife, whose husband asked her why she cut part of the turkey before baking it. Her response was, “that’s the way mom did it.” She decided to call her mom, and her mom told her the same thing, “thats how mom did it.” Luckily, great-grand mom was alive and when they asked her, she told them that it was because the turkey was too big for the pot she used for the oven. It’s an interesting story, how we take to traditions, even when circumstances have changed. The writer of Galatians 5, Paul the Apostle, is making it very clear that circumcision is like the woman cutting off the end of the turkey, when the times didn’t call for it. That is, even though circumcision was a pledge to live by the rule of Law, Christ came so that we should have relationship with him and not with the law.

When we lack understanding of what we do, we simply build up yokes between us and Christ. Yokes are no good because they put a strain on the relationship we have with Christ. For that reason alone, Paul is warning us, “…if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you at all.” The yoke in this verse refers to the Law. When Paul talks about circumcision, it was a tradition that was done by every Jewish boy. Acts 15:10 says it this way, “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” Being tied up to the Law makes us a bit like a robot. We do not have to use our god-given ability to make choices because the law tells us what we say, what we wear, and what we do. Does that sound familiar?

Photo by John Ray Ebora from Pexels

I have spent a better part of my teenage and young adult life as a Pentecostal Apostolic. Since the day I was baptized, I felt as if I had to put on a yoke of religion. The women wore hats, no pants, no jewelry, and attended church 2 to 3 times a week. No, this wasn’t normal, but when you started building relationships with the people, you’d be surprised to see how natural it was to follow the rules. You stop questioning your every thought about what you like, and replace them with what is expected. You go shopping and have to ask yourselves, what would sister so and so think when I buy this sleeve-less dress? It was a subtle way of conforming sinners to saints. But, it lasted as long as the relationships you developed lasted. In other words, once you have broken ties because of circumstances like university, or travelling or moving to a new city, those same unanswered questions begin to pop up again. Do you do the same things, even when circumstances change?

See Part II: For Freedom, He died

Robots do not think, but people do. Thoughts lead to choices, choices lead to decisions. We get to make decisions as humans because we are free. “For freedom, Christ has set us free.” Therefore, since we have been set free, Paul feels that it is important that we do not become circumcised again. Why? Christ will not be of any benefit, Paul says. My thought is that, since the Law tells us what to do, we have no need to come to God in prayer. One thing we could bring to God in prayer for instance would be the clothes we wear. Instead of listening to what a religious sect tells us; do this, and do not do that, we would be able to exercise our freedom in Christ. We can ask him what to wear [This is a basic example about clothing, but it goes for any part of our lives that concerns us]. Christ who thrives in relationship, would be all too happy to share in this aspect of our lives, and together come up with something that is both appropriate and uniquely us. This is what He does with us, if we let him, if we let go off the yokes that burdens us, and allow for relationship with the one who gives freedom.