How can you be so stupid? Do you think that by yourself you can complete what God’s Spirit started in you? Galatians 3:3 (CEV)

When I was growing up, it was almost considered a swear word to call someone ‘stupid’. Put downs and sarcasm were simply not tolerated. But when Paul is writing to the churches in Galatia, he doesn’t sugar coat what he is trying to get across to these new believers.

Somewhere along their faith walk they had made a decision, most likely sub-consciously, to try to draw closer to God through their own efforts. The Galatians were prodded along by Judaizers who insisted that they follow Jewish customs in order to be ‘good Christians’. Paul was completely dumbfounded by their actions. How could a people who clearly understood the sacrificial death of Christ experience the freedom he has to offer and then put themselves back in bondage?

The answer can be found in the example Peter unwittingly gave us earlier in Paul’s letter. Peter slipped into the same trap, and pulled several others with him. The bait was ‘living for God’. The motivation for stepping into it was fear. Fear that they wouldn’t measure up. Fear that their past was too bad for God to accept them. Fear that he may not approve of them. Fear that they hadn’t done enough to thank him for all Jesus did on the cross. A fear driven belief that grace is too easy, that there must be more than simply believing.

Don’t be too hard on the Galatians though. Don’t we do the same thing? We go to church because that’s what Christians do. We sing certain songs because that’s how we are told we need to worship. We say certain creeds because they draw us closer to God. We go through baptism and confirmation and communion because we have been led to believe that these are all things that HAVE to be done for us to be holy.

Don’t get me wrong. Church attendance, Bible Study, Worship and other activities of the church certainly have their place. However, if those things are done to grant us a closer standing with God they are nothing more than the legalistic trap that got Paul so agitated with the Galatians.

Here’s the thing. God is far more concerned about the condition of your heart than he is your behavior. He’s far more concerned about a love relationship with you than he is watching your attempts to ‘be good.’

Paul’s words should strike deeply into our hearts. They should draw us to scrutinize carefully all that we do to make sure we are doing what we do for the right reasons. Too often we get sucked into thinking that even though salvation is by grace, Christian living in on our own power. Grace covers it all. Grace beings me into relationship with God; Grace empowers me to live daily in his love.

PRAYER: Father God, please guard my heart. Thank you for the free grace given to me by Jesus sacrificial death. Help me to live in the freedom of that grace and protect me from my own desires to earn what you gave me freely. Amen.