You’re Doing It Wrong

Galatians 1:13-17; 2:11-21 2 Love Stories//You’re Doing It Wrong

I shared a few excerpts from favorite books today not included in the written form below. It’s in the audio, though. Give it a listen.

A few months back, protestors showed up at beer and hymns with signs, that if I had to categorize, would be logged under “you’re doing it wrong.” These same protestors have been making the rounds since then, hitting the UCC and Methodist churches in town and now have begun hitting area ELCA churches to remind us we are doing it wrong.

In today’s reading, we learn that the churches in Galatia are doing it wrong. Paul has written a cranky if not impassioned letter to the churches that he got started, telling them they’re doing it wrong.

But you don’t have to look too closely to see the 2 methods of going about this following Jesus as wrong are pretty different.

Peter, who is called Cephus in today’s reading, has begun to pull back from the Gentiles. Those are the non-Jews. It seems the Circumcision Party has come to town and told Peter, “you’re doing it wrong” and, for a time, Peter seems to have tentatively stepped back from the original work he was doing, chagrinned or shamed or something. Maybe they carried big signs too.

I’m curious what your questions are about today’s reading.

The heart of today’s letter and really the thesis of the whole letter are verses 15-16:

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law.

Isn’t this good news?

Yet, what if we replaced the word “justified” with this one through the reading: BELONG

We need the law. This isn’t to throw the law under the bus by any means. The law protects us from each other by having us look out for each other, paying attention to what the neighbor has and needs. The law asks us to look out for each other in a way that brings life.

Yet, the way the law was being used in both cases – in 1st century Palestine and 21st Century Minnesota, this is the law that kills. This is the law that is self-serving. This is the law that excludes and hurts. This is the law that seems to delight in saying “you’re doing it wrong!”

The emphasis on law by the protestors puts the saving action in our hands.

The emphasis on law by the Circumcision Party puts the saving action in their hands.

You’re doing it wrong, they shout.

We’re doing it wrong because it’s not us that can do a thing.

I’ve got 2 love stories to share with you, the first from Greg Boyle, a Franciscan brother who lives alongside the gang population in LA.

The second is from Glennon Melton as she reflects on grace in her own messed up life when she was trying to forgive her husband for infidelity.

The good news really is that we can’t do a thing. Oh, our actions matter, we can see that 10-fold in all of these stories combined, right? But, it is Christ who fulfills the law. It is Christ who takes care of it for us, making us put down our worn out pencils and yellowed check lists. It’s not up to us to manage our sin or the sin of others. It’s just not up to us because we can’t do it. We are unable to do it.  It’s the gift of grace. It’s the most vulnerable place we reside in in our relationship with God – we are not in control of this. God does it for us through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the community of the Holy Spirit.  I greet you with those words every stinkin’ Sunday because they are true. They are what save us. This grace and mercy through Jesus Christ.

You’re doing it wrong. It is Christ that does it for us.

Isn’t this just the best news?