Gerasenes & Galatians - Abrahamic Children
Proper 7 (year c)
Psalm 42, 1 Kings 19.1-15a, Luke 8.26-39, & Galatians 3.23-29
Galatians 3.23 & 24 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.
Meditation: But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.' (Galatians 3.25-28)
Reflection: "Must Gentile Christians adopt Jewish practices? Or does faith in Jesus make the law obsolete? Faced with these questions, Galatians responds with a vision of the law as a guardian until Christ's coming." - Jim Rice
Consider: Good questions posed by Jim Rice, "What is the relationship between faith and the law?" Our early church leaders struggled with these questions as embodied in the letter to the Galatians and even more thoroughly in Paul's letter to the Romans.
In this week's reading, we hear words about Abraham being "saved" by "faith," and that this faith was unfulfilled until the coming of Christ. In between, the law was needed as a guardian to keep us on the right track and save us from veering too far from God's will.
This scripture is translated in very different ways, and the message itself, can become confused by our own theological viewpoint.
We can read in the NRSV that before faith came, we were ‘imprisoned and guarded' under the law, which was our ‘disciplinarian,' while other translations say that the law was our ‘schoolmaster,' ‘custodian,' and ‘guardian.'
Rice points out that the Greek word in question actually referred to a slave who had charge of a child from age 6 to 16, one who accompanied the child to school each day to see that he or she fell into no harm or mischief. Paul is saying that the law is like a caretaker that looked after the people of God until it was no longer needed, replaced by the freedom that comes with faith."
We are discussing if the law has been made obsolete in Christ. We, as "Christians" do have a tendency to want to believe that Jewish-ness is superseded by Christian-ness. Our language implicitly sounds like this and we gravitate to scriptures like Jesus discussing communion, 2 Corinthians 3.6, and Hebrews chapters 8 and 9 (new covenant and better promises) to pose as our scriptural correctness is superior to that of ancient Israel. I suppose that if I were to selectively rest on those scriptures, I would conclude that we, as Christians, are what God desired all along-meaning our way of doing things.
Certainly God did mean for us to be free, and without the stain and guilt of sin, as our religious efforts strain to embrace today, but have we really found freedom in Christ, or have we become a neo-legal covenantal people, simply transplanting old (covenant) laws with a new (covenant) "disciplinarian" and reverting to old ways of governing ourselves with a modern type of purity code(s) disguised as grace, wrapped in church law, government, and discipline (not meaning the disciplines of worship and consecration).
Maybe another way of understanding this idea of old testament law vs. new testament Christ following is to view it as the original intent of all of those Mosaic laws are modeled, and in fact fulfilled (or filled up), in Christ-as He would have said it, "I [Jesus] did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.," Or yet another way of viewing this, might be, as Jesus having filled himself up with the scriptures (or the law), thus becoming them - modeling what they have meant all along. We are coming to understand that much of what our modern, traditional understanding of what this means to us is a serious demystifying of the scriptures.
"What it means to us, and in the context of the early church's debates over who was eligible for God's grace, rests very clearly on Paul's summation that there is "neither Jew, nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, that if we truly follow Christ (as expressed in the scriptures), we are safe because he will never lead us into sin, where law will judge us to be guilty. Christ has rendered obsolete the practice of separating and judging on the basis of race, ethnicity, religious lineage, gender, economic status, or class. The human tendency to divide and denigrate is deeply ingrained, but God's way of equality and unity is the new order of things. The consequences of that profound revelation are still unfolding in us today."