There’s something inside all of us that longs for a clear framework for how to live. We want to be given structure for the things we do. We feel good about accomplishing things and reaching goals. Our culture pushes for guidelines & deadlines, rules and regimen. That’s how we get things done right? We work hard by adhering to a certain framework, and we see results. But at what point is this at the expense of the gospel?
Over the last few years I struggled over issues of body image and eating. It’s been a long process of uncovering deep-rooted beliefs and deception in my thoughts about what is “right” and “healthy”. For a long time I justified it by thinking ‘every girl thinks about this. There’s nothing wrong with being healthy. What’s wrong with wanting to be in shape?’ But those thoughts quickly spiraled into a tangled mess. I began to formulate rules to live by: things I could and couldn’t eat, what was an acceptable size in my mind – and what wasn’t, goals like: ‘if I can work out this much, or eat these foods, I’ll be healthier… or I’ll lose weight.’ Clearly, from the outside looking in, my thoughts were jaded by the deception of sin and lies. But at what point did I loose clarity? By creating more rules to live by, I was binding myself to a pattern of sin.
Let me ask this: have rules put you under the yoke of slavery?
Paul’s letter to the Galatians warns us against this:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery… You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. …So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit
(Galatians 5:1, 13, 16-18, 22-24 emphasis added)
When I read this passage, I am reminded how freeing the gospel truly is for battling this lifestyle. When I live by my flesh, my mind reverts to structures and rules to live by. My law replaces God’s law of freedom and grace. Our own rules keep us from living in God’s grace. In my struggle with body image, I put my hope in the rules I created and my standards for looking a certain way. But how truly freeing it is to replace my rules and live in God’s grace!
Let me ask again: have rules put you under the yoke of slavery? How is this different than living under the grace of freedom in Christ?