Day 51: Legalism Does Not Work

Galatians 5:15 :

But if you bite and devour one another, be careful that you don’t consume one another.

Paul observed that the Galatians had begun arguing with each other. Perhaps they were even arguing violently.

I mentioned that some people doubt the effectiveness of the Gospel of grace because they doubt it will provide the structure to control the base desires of humanity. Here we read that it is the Law that clearly fails.

Have you ever noticed that when you make a set of rules that define a system of merit that something called “competition” begins to become more common? Now God was clearly defining a legal system that defined merit from God, but somehow, humankind always seems to figure out a way to make God’s rules into a system of comparison between humans.

I have a theory about how this works. I think that because it becomes clear to us that God’s law is unattainable, we start shifting our focusing to something more positive by comparing ourselves to other people. We can feel better about our sin before God if we know that, at least, we are doing better than our neighbor.

You can see how this would quite easily produce arguments. Whenever we have pride in our own performance and start to compare our performance with those whose performance appears to be lower than ours, we can easily show our pride. If someone else disagrees with our assessment of merit it would be easy for that person to mention it. When they do it is quite natural to defend our merit. It all seems quite harmless. The fact is, this kind of arguing rips people apart. This is the kind of thing that destroys whole churches.

I think that Paul is mocking the Galatians performance under their “law gospel.” It just doesn’t work and anyone looking from the outside can easily see it.

In striking contrast to this is what Jesus actually expects. He asked us to love our neighbor as we talked about yesterday. See the problem?