Last summer the road in front of our church was being torn up by the city to install a new sewer line. And when I mean torn up, I mean that there was no road; large holes ready to swallow my car whole; mountains of dirty; a narrow, one-car winding lane around those obstacles provided tortured access to our church entrance. Sometimes the road was closed from the south and we had to come in from the north. Sometimes vice versa. We received weekly updates on how to get to church. To say that we were hindered would be an understatement. I had this experience in mind as I read this comment Paul made to the Galatians.
You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? (Gal 5:7)
Paul casts the Galatian’s Christian journey as running a race and he poses a rhetorical question, “who hindered you?” Paul was not the one hindering them. Certainly, the God who called them was not the one in the way of the disciple’s pursuit of Him. It was the false teachers, they were the ones hindering them from running well, throwing road blocks in the way, slowing them down, weighing them down. How? By distracting the disciples from the truth of salvation by faith alone; by adding rules, regulations and laws to the simplicity of the Cross; by burdening them with requirements that no one is able to keep; by taking their eyes off the finished work of Christ and turning them to their own accomplishments.
We often face the same challenge as these Galatian disciples. We are running along the path of Freedom in Christ and bump into folks that say to us, “You’re not doing it right,” or “You need to have more faith,” or “you need to do ‘X’ to prove you love Jesus.” We are made to feel that our simple faith in Jesus is not enough. We need that “secret sauce” – some book, some practice, some rule or some teaching – to get to the next level. Let me assure you, there will always be someone who will try to hinder your Christian walk, perhaps not deliberately or maliciously, but who will, all the same, place roadblocks in your way. Instead of encouraging us to rest in the finished work of Christ, instead of pointing to the unfathomable grace of the Father, instead of depending on the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are told to “Try harder.”
But it isn’t always others who hinder us in our race. Is it possible that our own sins, our own doubts, our own unforgiveness act as weights that tie us down and encumber us so that we are thrown off our game? Do we sabotage ourselves? If something or someone serves to hinder our race, we can be sure it is not God nor is it a test from God. If it impedes our progress, if it burdens us with guilt, it is not the freedom which Christ gained for us.
Take a moment and ask yourself whether there is something you believe you have to do to earn God’s love. Think about those things you are doing or believing that seem like a heavy weight on your soul. Reflect on the things that make you restless and rob you of peace. Those are the hindrances that are keeping you from running into Jesus’ welcoming arms. Cast them off! Say no! Focus solely on Jesus crucified and nothing else. Then run like the wind.