Paul and James were the golf pros of the Bible.
I mean no sacrilege. Last week I began the week with comments on Adam Hamilton’s concept of the sweet spot in his book Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White. I even explained what a sweet spot means in the context of the game of golf. As we get to the end of comments on Chapter 5 [“Finding the Sweet Spot”] maybe you will be forgiving of extending this metaphor a little further.
I think I know why Hamilton devotes a chapter on this topic. Like a golfer knows, finding the sweet spot on a golf club is so hard. You have to practice hitting a golf ball many times in order to do it consistently. Golf pros spend their days on the practice range hitting shot after shot until they find a consistent swing that hits the ball perfectly. Maybe in a similar fashion, finding the perfect balance between living a life of legalism [too many rules] and libertinism [no rules] is hard for all of us Christians. What is the problem?
A life of too many rules is so inhibiting, so crushing; the loosening of the rules and the abuse of the rules of the Jewish law is one reason Jesus came to be with us on earth. A life of no rules is too free, with no aim and no good purpose except selfishness and the satisfaction of base desires. Paul calls libertines “enemies of the cross of Christ….Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things” [from Philippians 3:18-19].
Maybe as Christians we should all be in the work of finding the “sweet spot” between these two extremes.
Hamilton cites the disagreements that Paul had with the church of Galatia. He founded a church in Galatia but these good-minded folks began to see the need of requiring new Christian male converts to undergo circumcision according to the Law of Moses.
Paul was not happy. He accused them of deserting the idea of grace, and turning their church into a church that follows a different gospel. He repeatedly said that faith in Jesus Christ was enough to qualify a person as Christian. With that faith comes the Holy Spirit. He even accused them of putting on the yoke of slavery with this return to a legalistic concept.
Pastor Hamilton suggests we read Paul’s letter to the Galatians because in it you will see a man who is struggling to navigate between legalism and libertinism. He does not want the Galatians to be tempted to throw all boundaries away and live a life without some guide.
What does he want?
He wants them to live by the Spirit.
He provides examples of what “works of the flesh” look like and as he does, he comes perilously close to setting up his own rules but he stops short. He says “if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.”
In my opinion, it is the vague language of “love your neighbor as yourself.”
What can come from a command like that?
James uses the same command in his book. In fact, Hamilton states that James calls this the “royal law.”
Love God first and then love your neighbor. Those two “commands” summarize the main message of Jesus Christ.
Finding the “sweet spot” between legalism and libertinism is hard. It requires constant vigilance. It requires a lot of practice. To be honest, to do this well, a person will have errors as they fail to love God 24/7 and they fail to help their fellow man in time of need. We all lapse into being too rigid. We all get “off the tracks” and say and do things that are inappropriate.
It is hard to hit that old golf ball right every time. It takes lots of practice. Shots spray right and left and we can get frustrated. It is not an easy game.
But let me tell you, when you hit a beautiful golf shot, it is a thing that is sublime.
There is an old saying among golfers when you hit the ball right: “that is the shot in this golf round that will bring you back to the golf course.”
When you know you are following your Holy Spirit and you see the fruit that He has produced through you, you want to do it again, and again and again.
You are being a Spirit-led Christian…
You have found the sweet spot.