The Church Playground (Galatians 1:6-12)

I’m surprised that you’re so quickly deserting Christ, who called you in his kindness, to follow a different kind of good news. But what some people are calling good news is not really good news at all. They are confusing you. They want to distort the Good News about Christ. Whoever tells you good news that is different from the Good News we gave you should be condemned to hell, even if he is one of us or an angel from heaven. I’m now telling you again what we’ve told you in the past: If anyone tells you good news that is different from the Good News you received, that person should be condemned to hell.

Am I saying this now to win the approval of people or God? Am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant.

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the Good News I have spread is not a human message. I didn’t receive it from any person. I wasn’t taught it, but Jesus Christ revealed it to me. (God’s Word Translation)

At first glance, driving by any school at recess, the whole thing looks like a bunch of random kids descending into chaos bordered by a fence to keep it all from spilling out into the streets. But there’s more going on than the quick peek tells you. There are all kinds of petty little groups that make up the playground. 

It kind of reminds me of church.

The Presbyterians head outside to recess and cannot believe the lack of order going on. They try their darnedest to get some organized games happening.

But the Baptists aren’t having it. They’re too far separated from all the other kids to care about playing with any of them. Besides, nobody is playing by the rules and if there’s one thing Baptists can’t stand, it’s a lack of legalism. 

The Pentecostals all seem completely oblivious to anything that’s going on. They’re just having too much fun going as fast as they can on the merry-go-round to see that the Catholics are totally aghast at their lack of guilt feelings over hogging the equipment.

The little group of Episcopalians are lost in some morbid inferiority complex and retreat into their liturgical games.

Meanwhile the popular kids, the Non-denominational group, break out singing Chris Tomlin songs so loud that the Methodists go scrambling for their Book of Discipline to see what to do about it. 

The Lutheran kids are so busy fighting each other about who is the true Lutheran that they don’t hear any of the kids anyway. 

And the Reformed are those annoying kids who keep acting like the teacher instead of just enjoying being a kid on the playground.

The Church playground includes:

  • Groups of kids who don’t seem to play very well together; they all think they’re better than the other group.
  • Cliques who believe they’re the only playground in town; they don’t realize there are other playgrounds with all kinds of other kids.

How we interact with others in the world is going to determine if the school gets shut down, with no more playground. After all, what parent wants to send their kid to the school where nobody gets along with each other?

How we interact with each other on the playground of Christianity says a lot about our view of God. For many, God is the high and lofty Principal who’s only seen when something goes wrong, not realizing that God is really the encouraging teacher who’s daily in the classroom offering kind words and self-sacrifice that changes your life forever.

Instead of lamenting that Christendom has vanished from its grand position in society and that the moral fabric of our country is down the toilet along with the janitor’s cigarette butt, maybe we should stop giving the other kid a swirlie long enough to see that our bullying and belligerent ways are anything but the words and ways of Jesus to a world who needs spiritual care, not spiritual abuse.

I’d suggest we use our detention time to think about what we’ve done. And the Apostle Paul is here to help us do just that.

Paul was willing to tolerate a lot, but when it came to taking good news and twisting it into bad news, he was downright beside himself with shock and anger about the entire situation.

The Apostle had absolutely no tolerance for a bunch of honyocks who take spiritual deliverance and turn it back into spiritual bondage. It’s as if a group of immigrant refugees have been rescued from their terrible plight of homelessness and poverty to another gracious country; and then are deceitfully convinced to return to that previous state and leave the good confines of their new home.

It’s so appalling to Paul that he pronounced a severe curse upon them for doing such a thing. To emphasize his point, he belches out the curse a second time.

The good news of Jesus Christ is that there is forgiveness and deliverance from sin, death, and hell. It’s a gospel of grace that mercifully gives to us – a spiritual amnesty declaring us new citizens of God’s benevolent country of love.

Yet, many people are deceived with the legalist’s bargain from the devil: Take a nice handy list of do’s and don’ts and you will become godly. he false teacher is quite glad to provide the list so that there’s no guessing about what to do. And, for some reason, it seems it’s that teacher who always has playground duty at recess.

The list is presented as either principles to change your life; or rules to follow; or particular prayers to pray; or an approved list of things to give your money to. In other words, check off the items on the list and all will be well.

In reality, however, it’s a highway to the grave. And those who lead the way to death with their accursed legalistic ways will find themselves condemned by their own words and actions. In the end, the teacher will be dismissed to a very different school.

There is a need to repent of religious lists, political agendas, and teachings which ignore and demean the gracious good news of Christ’s person and work.

One telltale sign of holding to a conjured list is not being honest with one another about our struggles. The bald fact of list-living is that we cannot fulfill it. So, when we know we are not measuring up to the list, the temptation is to keep up appearances as if we are.

List-living eschews showing any weakness or imperfection and creates unholy disconnections between people:

  • I cannot admit my sin to anyone because the list pronounces me a failure if I do. 
  • I cannot enter a deep and prolonged grief over my loss because the list says I need to stay strong. 
  • I cannot profess my doubts about God because the list says if I doubt, I am not a real Christian.

The Apostle Paul’s (and mine, too!) response to the legalistic list-living is this: To hell with the list! 

Instead, give praise to Jesus Christ who has given us the way of freedom and peace! It’s grace which transforms hearts, turns lives around, and provides genuine joy and satisfaction. If grace is not the answer, we aren’t asking the right question.

I’ll take Jesus the Teacher any day over the list-loving false teacher.

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