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"Give me Law and Gospel, but please never give me Law without the Gospel" -- Chuck Collins

"Give me Law and Gospel, but please never give me Law without the Gospel"-- Chuck Collins

By Chuck Collins
March 1, 2024

I went to church wanting to meet God, but instead, the preacher handing me new marching orders. I went hoping for some relief for my weary soul, but I left with the example of a better "Christian" to emulate. I desperately needed to hear "rest" and "it is finished" and "nothing will separate you from his love," but he told me to try harder. I wanting to hear about a Savior, but it turned out to be self-improvement advice from an amateur therapist. I sought heaven but was given earth. I so wanted to hear that God is not mad at me. I went as the rich young ruler who was already ladder-climbing-weary and I left before Jesus could say: "With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible!" (Mark 10:26-27).

I suppose I need more Law (because the law is holy, righteous, and good - Romans 7:12), so go ahead and throw more dirt on my coffin. But don't forget to tell be about God who came to resurrect dead people! Hearing Law without Gospel is like an all-decalogue liturgy with no absolution - no creed; it is hearing a coach instead of a preacher; it is bad news upon bad news for my already weary soul. This cruelty happens every Sunday all across America, including Alaska and Hawaii! Law without gospel is always heavy, heavy, heavy!

The gospel of which St. Paul is not ashamed is about God's power to save, not ours; his righteousness to bring us to God, not ours (Romans 1:16-17). It is about "done," not "do." It proclaims what God has done for you and me in his Son when we couldn't. It is God's solution for sin, guilt, weariness, and death. Gospel proclamation, on the other hand, will leave us feeling exuberant because a righteousness and power not our own has been given to us in exchange for our sin. His service is perfect freedom, not more weighty obligation, that then produces the fruit of obedience - in that order! His yoke is easy and light, not drudgery. It is faith, not the extra-burden of a call to faithfulness. "Whenever you hear a preacher invoking concepts like 'accountability' or 'discipleship', you can be sure you are hearing the Law. Whenever you feel comforted or healed or absolved as 'fresh as a foal in a new mown hay,' then you know you are hearing the gospel" (Paul Zahl).

Give me Law and Gospel, but please never give me Law without the Gospel. It's deadly.

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