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Daily Devotional • January 26

Elizabeth Baumann
Brave and Wise
A Reading from Galatians 3:1-14

1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! 2 The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? 4 Did you experience so much for nothing? — if it really was for nothing. 5 Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law or by your believing what you heard?

6 Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” 7 so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. 8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would reckon as righteous the gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the gentiles shall be blessed in you.” 9 For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.

10 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.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is reckoned as righteous before God by the law, for “the one who is righteous will live by faith.” 12 But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” — 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

At first, it’s easy to side with Paul: “O foolish Galatians!” Would you give up the faith that converted you, the Holy Spirit that you’ve known to work miracles, the abundance of grace — for rules? For a law that humans have proven they can’t follow? We assume we are smarter. But are we?

The temptation to revert to a misuse of God’s law as a bunch of rules is two-fold. First, it’s almost instinctual. From our earliest years we have been rewarded for following rules. It’s a quid pro quo system, and rules make sense to us. But there’s a deeper reason. We’re afraid of grace and rightfully so. Grace is terrifying. This is because grace throws out the rule book, undermines the predictable way “things are supposed to go,” and when we surrender to it, there’s no knowing what will happen. Jesus himself, the most faithful, found himself on a cross. Under God’s law, there is a promise: “Follow this and you’ll be blessed. You’ll have plenty. You’ll be safe.” These promises are still true, but their fulfillment, far from simple, follows the logic of grace — the same grace that was given to us by the death of God. God’s promises will come true, but we don’t know when, and don’t know how. This is no logical quid pro quo.

We are no less subject than the Galatians to trusting in rules — certainly no less subject to fear. St. Teresa of Avila quipped to God that if he treated his friends so badly, it was no wonder he had so few. Fear isn’t unjustified. The question that has to be asked — the thing we have to continually drag up out of our semi-conscious souls where the fear lurks — is, do we really believe in the Resurrection? Believe in it so much that we look for it, as the Creed says, rather than entertain fear? Because grace’s one promise fulfills everything God has promised us from the beginning, the same promise that was at work on Easter morning.

Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.

Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Paraguay – The Anglican Church of South America
St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Beaufort, North Carolina
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