Monday meditations Gal. 2.18: choose freedom

“Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down.” Gal. 2.18

It is difficult to speak or write much about this without leaning toward the twin dangers of legalism and lawlessness. Theological debates can go on without end and frankly I have no interest in them as they never seem to help anyone.

I present this little verse to you because in your ongoing relationship with Jesus, he has/is/will be setting you free from things in your life, remnants of old systems of religion or self-help, various ways of trying to please God and/or improve yourself. Jesus is teaching you that he is always and already pleased with you – totally passionately in love with you. The Holy Spirit is growing and maturing you, accomplishing what you could never do tugging on your own bootstraps.

And yet there is something within us that has a tendency to try and refurbish those old ways. Often it comes in the form of bad teaching from those who (perhaps unwittingly) would saddle us with the same bondage they themselves are under (as Peter was doing in the story Paul relates in Galatians). It might come from impatience with the Spirit’s pace or order in growing us, or with dissatisfaction with where we are in life. Self-help is an attractive way to put ourselves together and gain success as the world defines it. But success as the world defines it is often what God calls failure.

When you came to Jesus, he began to tear down the old system of law that had you in bondage. He is in the process of setting you free. Reflect and pray on this verse this week and make sure you are living into that freedom as fully as you can, that you are not rebuilding what was knocked down.

One warning: living in freedom sometimes means making hard choices, ones that go against the grain of what our sinful culture would deem wise or prudent. I have seen people lose their freedom entirely because they would not give up the security and comfort of where they were, even when God was very plainly telling them to leave it and follow him. There are many reasons our sin nature craves the system of law, like all lusts of the flesh, it must be resisted. Freedom is a harder choice, one you have to continually make, but it is also the choice the Spirit of Jesus is always calling you to make. Choose freedom.

who you work for

Who do you work for? A small business owner? A large (faceless) corporation? Yourself? How do you know when you’ve done well, made the boss happy?

If you’re anything like me, you have multiple income streams, which means multiple ‘bosses’ with various degrees of personal contact. One my jobs is helping out at a small business here in Raleigh, working directly for the owner. Easy to know who I work for there and when he’s pleased. In my teaching posts, I work for the universities, interacting with (ever changing) people in administration, none of whom I have ever met in person. You could say I work for the students, but the right thing to do with a student is not always what pleases them.

In my own research, I really work for myself, but I find it really hard to please my boss in that setting. That boss is never satisfied, anticipates and rejects all my excuses, and is a real task master, on my back all the time. ūüôā

But then there’s this thing Paul wrote:

“Whatever you do, work heartily,¬†as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord¬†you will receive the inheritance as your reward.¬†You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.” Col. 3.23-25

You know who we work for? We work for the Lord. Read it closely, Paul is not encouraging us to start working for the Lord, but to recognize the reality that we are already working for the Lord in everything we do. The question is not who we are serving – only how well we are serving. If you haven’t done this before, try going through a whole day deliberately thinking to yourself that what you are doing – working, driving, cooking a meal, cleaning the kitchen, etc., is serving Jesus. It will make a difference in your productivity and the quality of your work. If you’ve been a slacker in some areas, it might be a good idea to ask forgiveness for poor service rendered. I did that just this morning, praying: “Forgive me for wasting time, energy, resources. Make me into a more faithful steward of all the many gifts you have given me.”

And don’t ignore that last sentence in what Paul wrote. If you have been doing immoral/unethical things in your work, you need to find ways to do your job ethically. That does not mean some arbitrary standard you or your company can live with, but real ethics – your work should engender (or at least not inhibit) justice, freedom, and well-being for all the people (all of them!) touched by your company. Working for the Lord means working in this way. You may find this requires small or large changes in how you go about your work. Or you may find it is impossible to do ethical work where you are. In which case you should quit at your convenience¬†immediately¬†as soon as possible. If you feel a tug in this direction, don’t ignore it. Pray into it, seek counsel and prayer support from those you trust in spiritual matters, and follow what the Lord tells you. Because he will tell you.

Working for the Lord is the best. He is gracious, easy to please, and gives the best swag. Plus the retirement benefits are out of this world (or to die for (pick your pun!)).