I loved the academic world. I still do.
It is a wonderfully organized space. Everything has a timing, a meaning, a purpose, a process. I loved that about it.
By the way, if you went to the University of Ghana when I did, you probably (like me) didn’t have the luxury of experiencing the academic world in all its glory. The University of Ghana was a necessary evil for me. Something I had to go through because I had to. And maybe, if Ghana today is in a fine mess, it might have something to do with institutions like that. So yes, this is all to say that to the rule, there is always an exception, and the exception is the University of Ghana when I was there.
Perhaps it has changed now. I’m laughing because a part of me thinks it has actually gotten worse.
But you see, God is a God of restoration, so He gave me an opportunity to go experience how school should be done. And it was beautiful. The only time I was stressed was when the doctor refused to give me antibiotics for a cough and I had to travel back to Ghana for medication before something bad happened to me. Yes, healthcare can be crappy even out there.
But you see, that wasn’t even related to academics. Of course, I did the work- there was work to be done- but it was smooth sailing. If I needed any research to be done, there was a wonderful library. I could even get books from libraries of other universities. For me, that was 90% of my problems solved.
And you knew what to expect.
The rules were clear. The timetable was precise. As a student, you knew which conferences happened when and where, and how to participate if you wanted to participate. As a TA, you also knew exactly what was expected of you.
There was nothing underhanded about anything.
I loved it. Everything was predictable and orderly. Even emails. People took time to punctuate and check for correct spellings and all that. It was a highly stimulating, logical environment.
Fast forward several years and I find myself in another highly stimulating, but not as orderly environment.
Enter the era of Grace in the Advertising World.
The first time I saw an email with obvious errors, I was frankly, quite scandalized. And that from a superior. Maybe, that’s why I was there, I thought sagely; to be the copywriter. Except… wasn’t that the work of an editor?
Call it Industry Culture Shock. It was real. I had to let go of my academia expectations and accept the random ungrammarly fluidity of the creative world. I learned that the only thing that made this world tick was ideas. Not grammar or good punctuation.
And honestly, I can say that the emails simply got worse… mostly because of the high tension, deadline driven culture that pervaded everything.
It was my own secret affliction. To endure these emails. Once in a while, I would make a mistake of my own, to my horror and amusement. But no grammar police was watching. So life went on. And oh, I loved that world, too. After all, creativity was never impeded by the lack of a full stop.
Even in the relative madness of a brainstorm, things made sense. Academic that I am, I didn’t have to check my brain when I worked the creative juices. Insight, Big Idea, Creative magic. That was how it flowed. No gaps in the argument. It all had to make sense. I like it when things make sense.
But something didn’t make sense…
See, aside from the Ms Frizzle side of me, the other big chunk of me has to do with faith…actually, all of me.
Now, if you’re wondering about the big jump from academic and creative world to Ms Frizzle and faith, well… it was deliberate.
It doesn’t make sense! What am I even talking about?
Do you now see how terrible it is when things don’t make sense? When there are huge gaps in knowledge/how things work?
And here’s the point I want to make- and I find this to be baffling- I realised that many of us check out our brains when it comes to the things of God. We’re smart at work but when it comes to faith, we don’t actively engage. Especially when it comes to conversations about God’s grace.
So right now, I ask that you look at this verse in its beautiful simplicity and tell me what you see:
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. (1 Corinthians 15:56)
There are three things here: death, sin, and the law.
And then the Apostle Paul works backwards to explain how they are related.
Death is the ultimate end game for man. And from death, if you go a step back, you realize that death’s sting is sin, and then if you go back a step even further, you discover that what gives sin strength is the law.
Nice and straightforward, right?
Now, if you are like me, I have my mouth open here because if there’s anything I want, it’s to be free from sin. And I thought I had to obey the law to do that. But that’s not what First Corinthians fifteen verse fifty six is saying.
So the next question is- How can I be freed from sin?
The answer here, as we observed, is not through the law. Because clearly, keeping the law will only strengthen sin in my life. Whoa. And it’s corroborated in Galatians 3: 19 which says, “What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions…”
Now, what is the law? Again, the Bible answers itself- the law is the old covenant, the Ten Commandments, which was written and engraved on stones: do not steal, do not commit adultery, you shall have no other gods before me, etc…those commandments in Exodus 20. That’s the law. But these laws are actually good, right? Yup.
But hold up. We’ve discovered together that the strength of sin is the law.
So what gives? Where do we go from here?
Because if keeping the law only gives sin more ground in my life, then what can counteract it?
Again, there’s an answer. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14).
So now we know the law and grace are polar opposites, either or. Divergent.
The law is what you do.
Grace is what you receive freely.
Isn’t this exciting?
Except I keep hearing sermons about doing the right thing and like those terrible emails, something goes twack! in my brain and it just doesn’t make sense.
So why the fuss and long thesis from me about this simple verse?
Because Christians everywhere want to live victorious lives. I hear it sermon after sermon, preachers encouraging their congregations to do the right thing.
Except the solution isn’t telling people not to sin or even to do the right thing!
Because that’s what the law is all about, which strengthens the hold of sin in your life…Incredible, or terrible, right?
What’s the solution then?
To throw out the law.
And bring in grace.
Which is instead of doing, you believe the right thing, which is we’re saved by grace and are not people bound under the law (people being told to do this and don’t do that) but people who are free to live based on the perfect obedience of Another.
Especially for a Good Friday.
So what do I do now, you ask? How do you make this work?
I love spiritual dares. I dare you to tell yourself every day, “Today, I’m not going to try to be good. Or do good things. I just believe I’m righteous in Christ by faith.”
Major disclaimer! This only works for believers – Christians.
And if you’re not a believer, the abundant life awaits you, my friend. Not a life of dos and don’ts. But a relationship with a God who loves you. There’s a God who sent His Son to take away your sins and condemnation. Forever. And all it takes is to accept His love and believe and receive His Son as your Lord and Saviour. He’s waiting to pour out His grace on you.
Say this prayer for your pass to the abundant, high on grace life: Thank you Father for loving me and sending Jesus to take away my sins. Today, I receive the gift of righteousness. I know I am forgiven all my mistakes and there is no curse or guilt on me today because Jesus took it all at the cross. I choose Jesus. I choose to live under your amazing grace. Amen!
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