Rules and regulations…can’t live with them – can’t live without them. Just a few more laws and all will be better right? Sometimes, I think that is all some live for. Unfortunately, there are no amount of rules possible to ensure absolute peace or total security. Rules cannot guarantee love of God or neighbor.
If I were to ask you why you go to a Protestant church would you know why? During the Reformation, early 16th century – attributed primarily to Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church, the Reformers, Luther in particular, were pushing back on the practice of the church selling indulgences (absolution for souls in purgatory by paying for a papal pardon) rather than a true transformation of heart and God’s grace regarding forgiveness of sins.
The Reformation was founded on grace and not the law. This didn’t mean that the law was unimportant…it just meant that God’s grace was not something one could buy or control. I really like John Calvin’s “Threefold Use of the Law” in order to show the importance of the law for the Christian life where the first purpose of the law is like a mirror. Mirrors are very telling – Calvin was saying that the law of God both reflects and mirrors God’s perfection…and, in so doing shows us our own imperfections.
The second purpose talks about restraining evil. By itself, the law, cannot change human hearts, rather, the law serves the purpose of restraining sin and promoting righteousness. Coupled with the laws of the land, it serves to secure civl order and to curb those who have no regard for any law.
The last use of the law for Calvin was to show what was pleasing to God. More importantly, the Christian is free from the law as a system of salvation. And this is where today’s passage comes in…Paul publicly challenged Peter because he was being a hypocrite. Paul was saying that Peter knew better – that no rules or regulations can do what Jesus did for us. While the law is important as Calvin said, grace is what matters.
It’s easy to rely on rules and regulations – they are usually concrete…”do this and do that”…grace is entirely different…so let’s hang a sign, “GRACE welcomed here”, on our church doors, the doors of our homes and the doors of our hearts so that all will see…because, grace is a miracle!!
There are many wonderful songs about grace but there has been one in particular on my mind lately with lyrics that tell this story so well – “Call It Grace” by Unspoken: