For the Love of Grammar

I'm glad to report that I'm mostly over the month-long crud infestation of my body. I diagnosed myself at one point with a case of the flu, because surely a mere cold or "the crud" could not so seriously manhandle a previously healthy thirtyish person like this bug did me. The whole experience made it official. I am not looking forward to being old. You know...the kind of old where fixing your coffee and then brushing your teeth is the highlight of the day simply because it's all you have the energy to manage.

All of that said, I should be highly motivated to get back on the exercise bandwagon which I tumbled right off the back of during the Plague of 2012-2013. I've got to keep this body in the best shape possible so that I can avoid that whole old thing as long as possible.

But not so much. Tomorrow. Really, I must start back tomorrow.

Instead, I am putting off sleep, as usual, in order to try and pull a few decent thoughts together. All of this is made even more difficult by the fact that we just got done watching a very troubling episode of Downton Abbey. How can I be expected to jump right back into something like blogging when tragedy has struck the Crawley family?

But, life must go on. That's the way she would have wanted it.

So, the whole topic of the Law versus Faith has been swirling around in my head this week, largely due to the fact that I've been studying Galatians. Let me tell you, Paul is serious about dying to the law and putting anyone and everyone who disagrees with him in their place.

This brings up the question of what we are to do with the law. How am I to view it? What place should it hold in my life?

It was put into place to reveal my utter hopelessness of ever being able to follow it, and yet it still reflects God's holy standard, of which I have fallen short. But, wow, the detail. Last time I checked, I don't own any oxen, but if and when I do, I'll have a very specific guideline on what my neighbor should do to make things right after he steals one. That's a load off my mind.

I'm a rule follower if there ever was one. I about wet my pants this morning when we didn't dismiss our small group in time for the worship service, because I just knew someone "in charge" would notice all of us walking in late and reprimand us at a later time. But then I remembered I am a grown woman and it's just church, not the military. Still, it was tough to let it go.

Yes, I realize I have issues. Legalism is a problem for me, and it's a problem for you if you know me because I'm totally going to judge you based on a very hard to pin down version of my standards + God's Word. Good luck with pleasing me. But, hey, I know how you feel because no one has a harder time following my own set of rules than me.

But is following the law (the true one given by God, not the made-up one given by yours truly) a bad thing? It certainly, absolutely cannot bring about our salvation!! That's what it's trying to say to us... that we can never follow it perfectly enough to be in right standing with or more loved by God than we already are.

Our salvation comes by God's grace through our faith in the One and Only Son of God, Jesus, who DID follow the law perfectly and then paid the penalty for my failure to follow it (a.k.a. sin) by his death, imparting his righteousness to me when I trust the sufficiency of his payment.

Just wanted to be clear on that.

Legalism says that I must do something in addition to trusting in Christ in order to be reconciled to God.

I know it's not true, and yet I still find myself trying to earn God's love.

Not going to happen.

So, with that said, how do I love God's law without trusting it for salvation, falling into condemnation and legalism, and judging others for their imperfections?

This morning, while listening to the sermon, my little legalistic brain spun into action. However, I wasn't being legalistic about spiritual things (which you'd hope my mind would be on during a sermon), but about grammatical things. Because I'm a stickler for some good grammar. (Disclaimer: I do make mistakes and I'm sure that there is a glaring grammatical error or errors somewhere in this post, just because that's the way life works and you know it.)

Really, I'm the type that if some piece of written information crosses my path and happens to include the use of your where you're is really called for, you can forget it. Whatever message the document was trying to send me is lost. In fact, I'll probably have to work very hard to overcome the urge to drive to the author's house and give them a thirty minute lecture on the proper use of both words. It's not that hard!!

So anyway, my pastor does use words improperly quite frequently during his sermons. I'm not judging (right this minute, anyway), I'm just saying. (Look, I'm sure if I were to get up in front of hundreds of people to speak each week, I'd do the same.) This morning, he kept using the word replica as a verb, when it is most definitely a noun. Every time he said it, I'd want to yell, "The word you're trying to say is replicate." He never figured it out. And, thankfully, I never actually said anything out loud. (My pride is great enough to overcome my love of correct grammar.)

In the midst of my very petty imaginary conversation with my pastor in my mind, the Holy Spirit said, "That's legalism."

Huh? No, that's incorrect grammar.

The truth of the matter was, I was taking part in something far worse than the incorrect usage of a word. I was being legalistic.

It slowly dawned on me that this confusion between a noun and a verb and my judgment of it was a great example of the law and our view of it.

Grammar is not a bad thing. It has a purpose, and that is to encourage effective communication. If we are all on the same page with our use of language, both spoken and written, we are going to be able to communicate with and understand one another much better than if we all make up our own rules, abide by them, and then try to use them on one another. Grammatical rules give us a standard by which we can understand our language and one another.

Fabulous. See why I love it so much?

The problem with my judgment of the pastor this morning on his poor grammar was not that I was incorrect. He was using the word in the wrong way. (I checked just to be sure, okay?) However, everyone in that room knew what he meant, including me. He got his point across loud and clear, and his point was much more important than whether or not he used precisely the right word to communicate it. (Seriously, it was a great sermon.)

That's where we miss the point. We get so caught up in abiding by every last rule out there (whether they are God's rules or ones we've added that we think maybe he just forgot) that we miss the bigger picture.

The law shows us how a person lives when he is loved by God and loves God. When we get so caught up in condemning ourselves and others for not following it, we're not being loving at all.

Jesus blew peoples' understanding of the law out of the water in his Sermon on the Mount. It was as if he took very specific points of the law and showed the people how they had totally missed the point.

"I told you not to kill anyone and you're all eager to tell me how you've never committed murder. But the point is not to just avoid killing them. That's just the minimum standard. It's to love them. So every time you're angry at them or hateful toward them, you might as well have killed them, because you're sure not loving them."

And so, should we throw all grammar out the window and just give in to this texting mess we've started? No. ROTFL! That doesn't lend itself to very effective communication. However, should I be lambasting someone in my mind every time they forget an apostrophe? I think not.

It's time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture that all the little rules are pointing to. Jesus did a pretty good job of boiling it down when asked to:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

It doesn't get much clearer than that.

And the beauty of it all....I don't have to follow those two little rules so that Jesus will love me. I can follow them because he already does love me.

 For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.

Galatians 2:19-21


  1. Grace and the Law, huh? A tough balance. I like to think of it like this: It is because of Grace that I am freed to be obedient to the Law. Because I have Grace, I no longer have to worry about the consequences of failing to meet the standard required by the law. Because of Grace, I am secure in Christ. Because of Grace, I am freed to pursue holiness with all my heart. I can pursue being Holy without fear of NOT being Holy.

  2. Yes, I think the free to be obedient thing is key. Great explanation. Thanks for the comment!


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