Today’s passage: Galatians 3.
As I referenced in my previous post, grace is a key concept in the Christian faith. The idea of God’s holiness is so overpowering that grace is the only solution by which an imperfect being can be allowed into God’s presence – without grace, there is simply no mechanism for us to have salvation, or hope. Incidentally, the concept of grace lays waste to the idea of “losing your salvation” – if you can’t do anything to improve your status with God, and didn’t do anything to attain your salvation, then how can you do something to lose it?
So, what is the Law? The Law is God’s standard. It’s a catechism that explains what “perfection” means, what standard we are held to. Take note that the standard is perfection – anything less, and “cursed be!” And unlike in college, God doesn’t grade on a curve. This means you’ve already failed before you even knew the rules. The Law exists, in essence, to show you that you’re screwed. “The only way to win is not to play,” and that’s the option that grace gives us. Interpreted through the lens of grace, the Law is now, as Paul says, a tutor, something that directs us to God.
But, if doing those good works has no effect on your status with God, if you can’t do anything to improve your standing, then why do good works? We shouldn’t do them to improve our standing, we should be doing them out of love. “If you love me,” Jesus said, “keep my commandments.” Not “if you want to get in good with me,” or “if you want to get into Heaven,” but “if you love me.” If that doesn’t make sense to you, let’s try analogy.
Say you’re someone who’s worked their way into an incredibly deep debt – the kind of hopeless, crippling debt that prevents you from doing anything else. Then one day you get a call from your dad: “Hey, son, I just wanted you to know, I love you. Don’t worry about the debt, it’s taken care of.” You later find out that your father sold everything he owned to pay off your debt, and was living in a small apartment. What’s your reaction to this? Do you immediately go back into debt? Or do you make sure to do right by your dad from here on out?
Or what if you had screwed up your lungs from years of smoking, to the point where you needed a transplant – but no medical board would ever give you one, because you refused to quit. So your friend, without you asking, gives you his. Do you keep smoking? Or do you refuse to touch a cigarette ever again?
Analogies for God are never perfect, but I hope you get the idea of the dynamic here. That’s why James is able to say that faith without the accompanying actions is dead. If you really had that happen to you, if you really had that faith and love, then something would happen. You’d keep his commandments.
So take a look at your life. If you call yourself a Christian, do you really believe that enough to have it show evidence in your life? If not… why?