Just Say No to Cookbook Religion

chef with flaming wok
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/liberato/2275622210/">Ricardo Liberato</a>

Galatians 2:15-21

We who, unlike the benighted pagans, were born into Judaism – we know that obeying the letter of the law isn’t what makes you right. It’s embracing the way of Jesus. We’ve embraced Jesus to get past legalism. Nobody is right just because he or she follows the letter of the law. Even so, if in our striving to be right by embracing Jesus we still screw up, that doesn’t make Jesus a screw-up! Hell no! In the contrary, if I’ve started putting things back together after I’ve screwed them up, it means I recognize that I was wrong.

Being a legalist killed me – and so I started living for God instead. Jesus’ crucifixion was my own. So now that I’m dead, Jesus can live on in me. My earthly existence is an emulation of Jesus dedication, who loved me enough to trade his life for the sake of mine. I’ll never take that for granted. If obeying the law makes you right, then Jesus’ death really was futile.

Religion comes from the Latin meaning rule. But Jesus isn’t about rules. Even Paul, in his best moments, recognizes that it’s not about rules. It’s about commitment to something greater than yourself.

Sure, following rules is easier. It’s much easier just to do what someone tells you to do. Or to look for instructions in a book.

Cooking is easier when you follow a recipe. But the best chefs know how to put the right ingredients together in the right amounts without needing a recipe. They write it down later so the rest of us can imitate their genius, but to them it’s not following rules, it’s engaging the creative juices present in the ingredients.

What the Galatians seem to want is another cook-book faith. Follow this code. Obey this law. First do this. Then say that. But Paul wants them to leave the cookbook behind and start living creatively into the calling of Jesus.

If you’re looking for a cookbook for religion, there are no shortages of religious options out there. But if you want to follow Jesus, there is no recipe. You have to become a chef.

One thought on “Just Say No to Cookbook Religion”

  1. Thanks for this. I agree, there is no recipe book, but it would be a great start if folks would read the Jesus stories in the Bible. If you want to follow Jesus, you have to familiarize yourself with his agenda, and read up on his methods. I feel frustrated that, without fail, church draws a bigger crowd for a chicken and biscuit supper than it does for a study of the Jesus stories!

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