This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. Galatians 2:4 (NIV)
As an actor, I was trained to dig into a character’s motivation and what makes him or her tick. Why do they act the way they do? What is it that he or she wants? What drives him or her to do that? The result is that Wendy and I find ourselves constantly observing people and discussing what it is that seems to motivate them. It’s not about being critical, in fact it’s just the opposite. Rather than observing a person’s behavior and immediately judging the person based merely on our reaction to his or her behavior, we try to genuinely gain a better understanding of why that person behaves the way they do.
Wendy and I were just talking over the weekend about a person we have observed who seemingly chooses to be shackled to their legalistic, religious rules. Our discussion led to that people who choose to be enslaved to legalistic, religious rules are motivated out of a fear of what others will think. It would seem that they are so worried about appearing good, pure, upstanding, holy that they will tie themselves up in knots to keep up the appearance of propriety (and will try to force their loved ones to do the same). The result? Uptight, joyless people enslaved to rules and perceptions.
This is exactly what Paul was touching on in today’s chapter. Experiencing the spiritual freedom to follow Jesus’ teaching without jumping through the legalistic hoops of Judaism, Paul now had to confront the uptight, joyless legalists who wished to put, and all other believers, him back in shackles. “No thanks,” I hear Paul saying and my own soul echoes the sentiment. I walked the path of legalism for several years and it twisted my soul to the point that love, joy, and peace were wrung out of my life – the very things that matter most.
To the legalistic, religious, rule following Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
The discussion Wendy and I had led us to feel sorry for our shackled friend. “We need to pray for them to experience real freedom,” Wendy said. Indeed. And, so we are.