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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Today’s Reading | Galatians 3:23–4:7

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. 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. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

My point is this: heirs, as long as they are minors, are no better than slaves, though they are the owners of all the property; but they remain under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. (NRSV)


Early in my ministry at Fourth, I asked John Boyle to help me by visiting with a young couple who needed a little more discipline in their relationship. John agreed, and afterwards reported to me, “I gave them my ‘Old Dutch Uncle’ talk.” (Can’t you hear John saying that?)

A lot of people may read Galatians 3:24–25 and think, “That sounds great—no more discipline!” That seems like a misguided reading to me.

When John Boyle died this year, I realized one of our wisest disciplinarians was gone. John always knew how to strike the right balance between discipline and grace. What will we do without this wise counselor to advise us on the rules of life?

In thinking about that this week, I saw something new in this passage from Galatians: Faith is not without discipline; faith is a discipline that is agreed upon between you and God. It doesn’t matter if someone else is there to enforce the rules; in matters of faith, you and God have agreed upon the rules because you’ve come to a mature, adult realization of what is best. 

John used to have in his office a framed quotation from Søren Kierkegaard, the point of which seems to be that disciplined faith means learning that God does not hold up a list of rules in front of us, but that God sustains us in times when we ourselves realize that we have not followed the rules we know are best for us and realize we must do better tomorrow. I’ve copied that quotation as today’s prayer.


“Father in heaven! Hold not our sins up against us, but hold us up against our sins, so that the thought of you when it wakens in our soul, and each time it wakens, should not remind us of what we have committed but of what you dids’t forgive; not of how we went astray but of how you dids’t save us!” Amen.

Reflection written by Adam H. Fronczek,
Associate Pastor for Adult Education and Worship

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