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I got reprimanded at the Y today. I just hate being told I’m not allowed to do what I am doing, particularly by someone I don’t know and who doesn’t know me. They also don’t know all the extenuating circumstances which might explain why what I am doing is actually ok and not offensive or harmful to anyone. (I was listening to my ipod while running on the track when it was interrupted by a phone call from a friend I’d been playing phone tag with for three days. I answered it while continuing to run on the track. I had totally not noticed the sign on the door to the track, which says “no talking on cell phones”, probably because when would I ever talk on my phone while exercising? Apparently, today is when.)

Here was the sting about being reprimanded: After initially wanting to blame the rule or the lady or whoever brought me to her attention, what it came down to was the sting of being characterized as “one of those people.” One of those people who jibber jabbers on their cell phone in public with no regard for those around them or one of those people who is oblivious to others. And then, the next level of sting was the assessment that whatever I was talking about was by no chance significant or necessary. Along with that, what does she know about the context of my day…I mean, what if someone had just died and this was my first time out in weeks after depression and grieving and the phone call was to help me keep going? Well of course it wasn’t that by a long stretch, but all those thoughts were so very telling about my need to have people assume the best about my motives and intentions at all times in every place. The 30 second exchange and the hours of thought afterward are revealing about my need to be assessed above reproach by strangers, family and friends alike.

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. Gal. 3:23-25

What is clear from this brief episode and other decisions I have been pondering lately is that I am still held in custody by any and every “law” others may hold up to assess my acceptability and approval ratings. If the new law is organic or natural eating or how much television my children watch or how we’ve decorated our home (which is a joke right now) or how where our children go to school, by golly I want to stand approved by that law. Give me your law for perfection on your terms and I will meet it so that you will honor me and not look down on me.

We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. Gal. 2:15-16

What? Ouch says the determined Pharisee in me. But true. If I am seeking to be justified by any measure other than Jesus, not only am I a slave to all those laws which will never set me free, but I am denying my own need for the person and work of Jesus.

Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Romans 4:20-25

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4 Here is how it plays out practically for me: If we do/don’t do “x”, Sally, my child’s classmate’s mom (or Sue, my friend at church, or Steve who works with my husband), will characterize me/us as “one of those” kinds of people and I/we are not like “those” people. What it comes down to is my greater need for peers to declare me righteous in their sight than the declaration of righteousness I already have by the God of the universe. And what that stems from is the classic fear of man being greater than my fear of God. I trust more in what man might do to or can do for me than what God has the power and love and grace to control or provide. Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Romans 8:33-34 So am I advocating that we break the rules at the Y because we are not condemned in Jesus? Seriously? Is that what you are reading? Of course not. That was merely a vignette to demonstrate that the larger judgment of human assessment of my character and honor have become far too important to me. My reputation has taken the ruling throne of my heart so that even my obedience becomes more about serving my image before others than about living in the freedom of His image alone. By the way, I’m increasingly realizing that I am “one of those people”. I guess as soon as get more comfortable with that reality, I will increasingly enjoy the benefits of being one of His people. The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:8-9

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