“We serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.” (Romans 7:6)
As a first-born, I’m a natural rule-keeper.
I learned early on as a child that keeping the rules catches the positive attention of adults. When I spoke politely, acted courteously, and behaved obediently, I received praise. “What a marvelous son you have,” people would occasionally say to my parents. (Little did they really know!) It also paid off in job interviews, and in leadership.
But a dark side developed.
Rule-keeping (living under Law) produced the double-edged sword of perfectionism and a critical spirit within me. The perfectionism buried me. The critical spirit damaged the people around me.
My perfectionism produced both drivenness and insecurity. Gotta work harder … and harder … to get it right. And I had to get it right to impress the people around me, to gain their approval. I struggled without their affirmation. And worse, I crumpled under their criticism.
On the other hand, when others dropped the ball, or fell short of the perfect standard, I became critical, impatient, and distant with them. And I discovered how hard it is to work with people — or minister to people — when you are critical of them. It becomes very isolating.
Gotta love how legalism works in our lives. It sucks the life out of our souls, and gradually ruins all of the relationships that matter to us — friendships, marriages, parenting, and workplace collegiality.
When Paul says the Gospel sets us free to live in the newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter, he certainly means first and foremost that the Old Covenant Law no longer rules and reigns over us. But this extends to attitude as well as status.
The day-to-day freedom that transforms my life — our lives — is the freedom from legalism (letter-living lifestyles). When we truly live in grace, we genuinely live with grace. We live.
May today be filled with grace, and with the newness of the Spirit at work within us and through us.