The nanny

Galatians 3:23-29
One time I got a ride home from one of my high school band directors. As we drove, a car ran a stop sign and almost hit us. My band director slammed on his brakes. As he did, he put his arm across me like a second seat belt.

I could tell it was instinctive.

Once the screeching from the tires stopped, he looked at me and said, “Sorry. Once a parent, always a parent.”

Since that day, there have been times when I’ve had to slam on my brakes. I’ve thought of my band director because, like him, my first thought was wanting my children to be safe as well.

It’s funny because as a fifteen-year-old freshman I was already double my band director’s size. What was his small arm across my chest going to prevent in a car accident? As meager as it might have seemed, on that day, that was his role for me. All the other days he instructed and guided me in music. And in case you didn’t know teenager John, he also disciplined and scolded me.

Would you believe my old band director was similar to the law of God? Well, he at least gives us a chance to reflect on something the apostle Paul taught in the book of Galatians.

According to Paul, the law of God had its limits. When we talk of the law of God, think of what Moses gave the people in the Old Testament. The law did not offer God’s Spirit (Galatians 3:2). Strangely, relying on what the law prescribed as salvation brought a curse (Galatians 3:10). Finally, the law does not justify us.

So, what was the point of the law?

Paul said it was a pedagogue. This is a Greek term that identified a family servant. The NRSV calls it a disciplinarian. It literally translates as boy-leader. In the family, it’s someone whose role is to instruct, discipline and guide male children. Tutor is another word that gets used. I’ve read others compare it to a nanny.

The idea is that the law was temporary. Its purpose was to prepare us to understand God’s will to justify all people (Galatians 3:8) and show us the reality of Jesus. It’s not that we don’t need the law anymore. I would never buy a New Testament only Bible. It’s that Paul wants us to understand what God wanted the law to do: Point us to Jesus.

To be sure, this pointing isn’t a mere teaching exercise. Don’t teachers and nannies want us to mature and grow into something more than what we currently are? My band director wanted me to know more than scales. He wanted me to know the joy and discipline of music.

Likewise, the law wants us to grow into something more. Paul says the law wants us to clothe ourselves with Christ and belong to him. When you read the law or any part of scripture, that is God’s desire for you. Now, that means there’s some growing up to do. Don’t worry. It’s better than it sounds. 

Growing up in Christ is understanding the love of God more. It’s finding your identity and purpose in God’s will. So, keep reading and keep growing.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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