The apostle Paul told the church in Galatia that God’s people had been prisoners under the law. “We were held captive,” he said. There was no freedom. There were only rules. Like a child under the hand of a teacher, or a nanny.
The rules point out the way to go. There is protection, of sorts, when living under the rules. Many people like having rules. Rules bring order to our lives. Without rules, people can feel exposed.
A friend of mine in eastern Kentucky told me he loved the green, tree-covered hills of his home. He grew up there. Really, he knew nothing else. His house sat on a hill, overlooking a beautiful valley. Everything was lush and moist and rolling. Down the lane were narrow hollows – winding among tall trees and steep hillsides. A person is sheltered under all that green.
My friend loved it. It wasn’t like Kansas, where I grew up. “I’d feel naked there,” my friend told me. Parts of Kansas are as flat as a pancake. The distances stretch out into the blue haze. The sky is a big dome. Nothing stands between you and the far horizon.
For some, I suppose, it can be a little unnerving – all that empty space in which to move. There’s nothing standing in your way. And there’s nowhere to hide.
The Judaizing Christians wanted the church to return to the law. But Paul said this was foolish. The church was free of the law. The law was put in place for a time – until the time when Jesus showed up and until the time when anyone could join Abraham by responding in faith to God’s call.
Righteousness doesn’t come by following the law. It comes through faith in Jesus Christ. In faith, there’s freedom. In faith, there’s room to live. The law points the way to wide-open spaces. It’s a kind of corral one lives in before entering the vastness of eternal life through Jesus Christ – a wonderful gate.
Of course, I suppose a person might prefer the corral. It’s safer in there, it might seem. But that’s not eternal life. Eternal life means we have the Holy Spirit – our guide as we leave the law behind. We are not tethered to the law, living in the corral. We are living under the freedom-giving presence of the Spirit. And we go freely where we’re led.
In the Spirit, we’re perfectly protected in those wide-open spaces. And we’re perfectly free.