By Robert Halsey Pine
St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Galatians how to live in our complicated world: “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.’ Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.’” (Galatians 3:1-14 NRSV).
The law can be binding but it can also be a crutch. We sometimes prefer to be told what to do because it is easier than figuring things out on our own. Freedom can be hard work. We have to think and choose. It is hard to make sense out of this. We would rather be restricted and bound than to be free to choose, even though we complain about restriction.
I know a case where a prisoner was on a work release program. He was driven to a foundry every morning from the prison. He would work a full shift at the foundry and then be picked up and returned to his cell at the prison. He was in this program for several months. The time soon came for him to be released from prison. He was so comfortable with not having to make decisions and having everything provided for him that he intentionally tried to escape while out on work release just days before his legal release and freedom. He didn’t want to get out of jail.
Look at the former Soviet Union and the communist countries of the Eastern Bloc. The autocratic rule over these people was a curse. Freedom to choose democracy has not been that easy. It is difficult to get used to freedom when your every move has been planned for you in your life.
There is much confusion in many of these countries that have been controlled for so many years. Some question the gift of freedom.
To have faith and hope is to have freedom. We have such a hard time choosing to have faith. We are so comfortable in the curse of the world that having faith seems risky to us. We find it easier to follow the law with our lips than to think of the perfect freedom of a faith in God.
The Lord spoke to Isaiah (29:13) in this way: “Because these people draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote; so I will again do amazing things with these people…”
Think about your comfort in the law. Think about how mechanical you have become. Are you really in a safe place? Are you really doing your Father’s will? The freedom of faith is our hard choice, but our only choice.
Robert Halsey Pine was born at Newark, Ohio in 1943. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extension: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South.