Virtuoso

October 4, 2012

Excerpt from Galatians 3:23-29

"Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came…"

Reflection by Quinn G. Caldwell

This is one of those places where knowing a little Greek helps a lot.  The word here translated "disciplinarian" is paedagogos.  In the Roman world, a paedagogos was a well-educated slave whose job it was to accompany the master's children to school; sometimes the paedagogos was the teacher, too.  Think "governess" in a rich old English family, without the connotations of meanness or faded nobility.

When a governess or a schoolmaster is teaching little kids, it's all about learning rules.  But as those kids grow up and advance through the educational ranks, learning is less and less about memorizing the rules and more and more about discovery, even if it means breaking the rules they'd been taught before.  Eventually, some become masters in their fields.

If you know the laws of gravity well enough, you can build machines that break them.  James Joyce didn't write the way he did because he didn't know grammar, but rather because he'd become a virtuoso in it.

So too, says the author of Galatians, with the Law.  Jesus didn't come to do away with the Torah; he came to write it on our hearts.  He came to teach it to us so well, make us so conversant in it and so in love with it, that we would become virtuosos of the Law.  He came to teach us how to make our lives masterworks of Torah, living the deep truth of it so deeply that we even seem to be breaking it sometimes.  He came to teach us not to do away with it, but to fulfill it.

Prayer

Oh God, thank you for your Law.  Write it now gently on our hearts, then take away our babysitters and set us loose in the world, virtuosos of the arts of love and grace.  Amen.

About the Author
Quinn G. Caldwell, a United Church of Christ minister, is the co-author, with Curtis J. Preston, of the Unofficial Handbook of the United Church of Christ, published by The Pilgrim Press.

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