This week Michelle, Ben, Zak and I are driving across the midwest of the United States to visit our daughter Rebekah and her family. The adjacent states of Missouri and Kansas both sought to emphasize the same message with large, blinking roadside signs: "Click it or ticket."
But somehow the spirit of the message was entirely different from state to state. In Kansas the sign read: "Click it or ticket. It's Kansas law."
But the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) instead wrote: "Click it or ticket. MoDOT cares."
Why do we live the way we do? Is it the law of God or the love of God that compels us?
From our earliest Sunday School class, the teaching of the church is often little more than "these are God's commandments, and we must follow them."
What a scandal if Paul were to come into the classroom and say, "These are God's commandments, and we cannot follow them!" It is our failure to live up to the law, Paul teaches, which brings us, broken, to Messiah. If we will die with him, the same Spirit which raised him from the dead will also give us new life. And if we are led by the Spirit, we are not under the law.
Not under the law? Walking in the Spirit? This sounds so nebulous, so risky. How will we know what is right and wrong? We’d rather have it down in black and white: this is what you must do and not do. In other words, we want the law.
Paul though teaches that to the Spirit-led individual, and the Spirit-led church, the works of the flesh are obvious. And so too is the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
This Shavuot I want more of the Spirit of God. And I want to know that God's Spirit is living in me by the visible fruit, by the righteousness from the Spirit which exceeds even that of the ultra-religious.
Father, this will only be so through your free gift. We ask for your Spirit afresh today.