So what does a good teacher do? Create tension—but just the right amount. —Donald Norman
Tension results from unknowns. It exists to keep an audience engaged and asking good questions. Tension evokes emotional investment and sets the stakes: Who is going to lose what, and how am I going to feel if it’s lost?
In Galatians, Paul does a major job of heightening the tension between the law and grace. He builds the tension to the place where we have to face clear distinctions, and we have to choose between the two:
Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? (Galatians 3:2)
So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? (Galatians 3:5)
We do a little dance because we know the answer, don’t we? Spirit and belief, baby!
For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. Why, then, was the law given at all? (Galatians 3:18-19a, emphasis mine)
And our dance floor is suddenly still. Why did God give the law? If we don’t need it, did God make a mistake?
What’s at stake in Paul’s question? Do we leave the entire Old Testament behind? What about the Ten Commandments? What about other rules in Scripture? Sure, we all want to answer “grace and belief,” but don’t we feel the tension with the law and rules too? What’s at stake? Just about everything, including our inheritance—our freedom in Christ.
May the tension in Paul’s question dismantle the shackles that keep you from dancing!
Thank You for incredible teachers such as Paul, who build tension so I might realize what’s at stake if I add to Your grace. Give me understanding as to why I’m leaving legalism behind, so I will never be tempted to return, and so I can answer with grace and truth to others who need to be set free. Amen.