That's the Book: Galatians
The annual preschool bell choir was yesterday. It's one of my favorite days of the year. I love 3 and 4 year olds. I get them. They seem to get me. We do well together. They are funny, smart, mostly kind and they could really care less about all the pretense which can show up later in life.
We have been practicing for today's bell choir for the past several months. Every Sunday morning we go over the rules. Don't touch the bottom of the bell. Two feet on the ground. Big voices. Smile. Be nice. The rules are there to protect us all. It hurts when a wild bell hits a neighboring child's head. And the bells break if you touch the bottom bit.
Galatians is a letter the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Galatia. Prior to this letter, Paul had preached and served in Galatia. Many Gentiles (non-Jewish people) had accepted his teaching about the grace of Jesus to cover their sins and bring them into right relationship with God. The church was born and was growing. Later, Paul heard this church was twisting the new faith of the local people by adding all kids of rules to the faith. Difficult, detailed, depressing rules. The church was being dragged away from the simple idea of following Jesus to a complicated faith with too many structures and requirements. The book of Galatians is Paul's simple "Stop That".
I grew up in the church where I still attend. This is amazingly joyful most of the time because I know their stories and I see Jesus in them. They know my stories and can call me out when I need it. Occasionally this is hard. Sometimes I hold off writing or doing something I know God is calling me to because I happen to know it will offend someone I love. I really like everyone I love to be happy. But increasingly I'm learning the people pleasing part of me has to die.
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
Frankly, sometimes I let them down because I'm following ME. This requires an apology. But if my people are disappointed because I follow Jesus I'm learning to be okay with that. Took me a long time to get there. I like to follow the rules. I've learned sometimes the rules or traditions are wrong or outdated or not as important as the people standing in front of me. I like grace and freedom.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live,, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. Galatians 2:20-21
The kids this morning stood up on stage and declared to the believers watching the glory of Christmas. "For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a savior who is Christ the Lord." The whole reason I teach preschool is not so we have a cute and heartwarming program. The reason I teach the 3 and 4 year olds is because I don't want a single one of them to remember a time when they did not know about Jesus. How much he loves them. How they can be a part of his family. How he is the greatest gift ever given. It's why I bother to write as well. I think Paul felt the same.
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, than an heir through God. Galatians 4:4-7
Paul knew freedom isn't the same thing as anarchy. Freedom has responsibilities. It has relationships. But it isn't bound up in a list of rules. I'm free to follow Jesus. So are you.
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:13
Before we dug into bell season, we ran through nine lessons with the preschoolers on the fruit of the spirit. This is the most well known section of Galatians. Paul is begging the church to return to a vibrant growing relationship with Jesus and let go of the piles of rules. He's convinced if they follow Jesus with their whole heart the rest of it will work out. We told the kids if you have Jesus in your heart things will start to grow. Good things. Powerful things. You won't have to worry or stress or fight. The lists will be covered because grace grows the good stuff.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Galatians 5: 22-24
Today was a crazy schedule day. Bell choir, meeting after church, birthday party, piano recital and play practice. Goodness. I showed up at church this afternoon for the last event kinda spent. My friend offered to bring my kid home after practice. Little thing. HUGE impact. An hour to read, reflect and write.
You know what I figured out in Galatians? Loving people is way more important than pleasing people.
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:9-10
It's the beginning of December. I know your schedule is nuts. Take a few minutes and read Galatians. It's six chapters all about the freedom and grace found in following Jesus. Love people. Follow Jesus. Let go of some rules. Breathe. Don't grow weary. Christ is born. What a great way to ring in the season.
If you are used to these at the end of the That's the Book posts you know I think they are a great tool. If you haven't watched one yet - why not today?
Galations - lots to check out. Here is a great visual from New Spring Church
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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