Select Page

A Righteousness by Faith #22: Choosing the Spirit over a Parent

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25

You cannot be with your child 24/7. Especially after they get their driving license and begin to spend time out with friends or at work or living a life that you are not a part of. And at some point, they are grown and out of the house on their own. No set of carefully crafted rules matters anymore. No parent is invited to look over their shoulder to keep them accountable, to make sure they made good decisions, to keep them safe. If your children are going to be the persons they have the potential to be, they have to choose it for themselves.

Paul understood this idea even without having children. If you want a righteousness by faith, the desire has to come from within you. His own history with the Law left him gasping out, “What a wretched man I am!” (Romans 8:24) Wretched here means miserable. Paul understood that no matter how holy and well-meaning the rules were, they just defeated him. So when no one was looking, he lived out the worst version of himself.

I know many believers, including myself, that know what being wretched is like. We planned to live right, but ended up far from what we hoped to be. And it was made harder by the church we were part of, who wanted to step in and ‘parent’ us by setting up righteous rules and pounding into our heads how disappointed God would be if we did not keep up our responsibilities to be good.

Wasted effort. Believers I knew would put on a show until they were out of sight of the ‘parent’ and live exactly how they wanted—even if the lifestyle they chose was damaging.

Paul’s approach was as different as it was radical. “Those who would put you under the Law so that you will become holy are all wrong. If you want to live the Jesus life—love, joy, peace, patience, and all the other characteristics that make up a righteousness by faith, it can only be had by the Spirit God gave you. If you are going to be good for God, give up trying to be good and choose to lean into the Spirit.”

Okay, I admit that is a very loose paraphrase. But it is the point of Galatians 5:25. Since you live by the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit. If the power for living the life has already been given to you in the person of the Spirit, then you need to choose to trust the Spirit’s power over any set of rules for living that the most well-respected teachers can put out there. They are not your parents. They are not with you 24/7. They do not know what God knows. They may not even approve of what God approves of or may fail to teach you righteousness in the way Jesus lived it.

Example? How about Jesus hanging around with disreputable people—sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes? What kind of response did that get from the righteousness-by-the-Law crowd?

I have a friend who, along with some of her friends, has been going into a local strip club to bring the girls food and love on them. They have shown them kindness to the point that even the managers are glad when they show up. Several years went by before they saw any of the girls put their faith in Jesus. But they kept going back even when they did not know if their presence would make a difference.

Why did she and her friends do this? Because they are living by the Spirit and chose to keep in step with him. Instead of forming a protest team, demanding that the town shut the place down, instead of videoing the patrons to shame them publicly for frequenting the joint, they were led by the Spirit to reach out in love to those who needed to experience real love.

My point is not that this is what the Spirit would lead every believer to do. What I am saying is that choosing to keep in step with the Spirit can lead you to live your life far differently than what you expected on your faith journey. He can free you from powerful temptations, set your heart on what God wants even when other people think you are nuts or disrupt your comfortable life to serve the kingdom in ways you had not planned on.

There is not a holy law in the world that ever has had that kind of power to shape your life… so keep in step with the Spirit.

-Steve Smith