Read His Words Before Ours!
My eyes clouded as the memories surged to the forefront of my mind.
I remembered the swell of pride the day I completed my religious training; as time passed, my acclaim as a pharisee grew. With each effortlessly victorious debate, each oratory demonstrating my deep understanding of the entire Scripture living within my memory, each flawless performance of public rites, I believed I inched one step closer to perfectly living the Law.
And yet, in the quiet of the night, questions came. Stunning in their simplicity, they goaded me, “Are you good enough? Have you done enough?”
I found myself without an answer, because despite my austere priestly persona, I hadn’t upheld the Law perfectly. And the exhaustion of my effort was overwhelming.
Unwillingly, I was bound against myself; I had no way out.
Constant perfection was demanded of me: I had joined the strictest sect of pharisees, because their zeal for the truth mirrored my own. Truth, we believed, began and ended within the Law. Anyone who violated that sacred truth deserved to be punished.
Therefore, rage ignited within me as I listened to my fellow pharisees’ vitriolic indictment of a new, heretical movement called The Way. I had built my life upon the Law. Adherence to our sacred texts defined our culture and preserved our identity as God’s chosen through generations of foreign dominion. But these traitors declared a transcendance of the Law by the death of a man claiming to be Messiah . . .
No. I quelled the doubts whispering at the periphery of my mind.
If the Law was proven unable to save, I was doomed, held hostage by its demand for perfection. I covered my silent fear with public outrage: when a call came for a leader to put a decisive end to this madness, I was the first to volunteer.
Thus began the arrests. More than I could count, running together in a blur that powered my meteoric rise to fame within my own circles, and infamy to those whom I pursued. The mention of my name struck terror into the hearts of these heretics . . . and the intense pleasure that brought spurred me to even greater efforts.
Etched into my soul was the rabbit-howl of condemned mothers as their children were ripped from their arms and handed over to slave-traders. I can still hear the muted slap of coats hitting the ground at my feet, the gritty heft of the first stone in my hand, the spurt of blood as it met its mark. In those moments, my satisfaction grew with each display of the pain I mercilessly inflicted.
For I no longer possessed any doubt: obliterating the enemies of Yhwh, protecting the very foundations of our beliefs–this would earn my salvation at the end of my days. And so bloodlust became my passion, in the name of my God.
Until, one day, on an unremarkable stretch of road, I met my God. Soon after, scales fell from my eyes, and shackles fell from my spirit. I saw the truth of the horrific war I waged against God and His children. My deepest fears of the Law becoming my own noose were realized.
The Law, my beloved, reverenced Law
upon which I built and staked my everything, led to death.
So many deaths, at my hand.
In my attempts to follow every letter of the Law, I had become the chief of sinners.
But then, grace.
And on its heels, freedom.
Grace in the form of a God who loved me deeply enough
to meet me, man to God,
as the Truth personified.
Grace in the form of a man whose love for God
outweighed his fear of me
and welcomed into his home his greatest enemy
in the days of my greatest vulnerability.
Grace in the form of a community of believers
who forgave my past
and sewed into my future.
Grace, not perfection.
Freedom, not captivity.
I came to understand that the Law didn’t bring salvation.
Rather, it created an awareness of sin,
the futility of legalistic striving,
and the need for a Savior.
With effort, I ended my reminisces and drew my attention to the task before me. My heart was broken to learn how my message of grace and freedom in Christ was being perverted. Like our ancestors begging to return to lives of tormented subjugation in Egypt, my brothers and sisters in the faith in Galatia were trading the freedom of the gospel for the chains of the Law.
At the heart of the issue lay a question of identity.
Were we children of God because of dogged obedience to the Law?
Because we were circumcised, followed each directive regarding food, and observed every Holy day?
But, of course, we couldn’t do it all. Not perfectly enough to stand blameless before an utterly holy God. So we sacrificed to cover our failures, and tried again. Tried harder.
And failed again.
We were once trapped,
Dying within a system never meant to give life.
Or were we children of God because of our faith?
Because we repented of our sins, believed they were covered by the blood of the One True Sacrifice, and accepted the grace and forgiveness of God?
We walked in freedom, finally and completely released from the cycle of sin and death into new and eternal life in Christ.
I picked up my pen and began to write, my hand shaking with the force of my conviction. The words sprawled across the page.
Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Did you receive the Spirit by works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (Gal 3:1-2)
Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed . . .
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His son to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons . . .
So you are no longer a slave, but a son, an heir through Christ (Gal 4:4-7) . . .
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (Gal 5:1).
My brothers and sisters, you know the truth.
Stand upon it.
Sisters, how has Christ brought freedom to your life?
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!