Have you ever played a game and not kept score? Maybe it was pick-up basketball game or a round of golf. I was reading in Galatians this morning and I thought of what it was like playing without keeping score.
Some folks like it. They like the freedom of not having to keep score while letting “it all hang out” on the playing field or the basketball court. It helps them perform better. Personally, I don’t like it. I’m not wired that way.
I like keeping score. I like measuring my performance, whether it’s trying to lower my score playing golf or beating the other player in Madden NFL video game. I like competition. I like keeping score. Most of us do. It’s built-in. It’s why sports are so popular worldwide.
We naturally want to measure our performance. We do it in sports and in school. This week, children are taking SOLs… and being measured against Standards of Learning, benchmarks of performance. They’ll continue to keep score of their performance by the grades they get and the scores they receive, and some of their lives will seemingly hang in the balance when they take their SAT tests late in their high school careers.
We also tend to do it in our religious life. We measure our devotion by how much we read our Bibles, how often we go to church, and how much time we spend in prayer. Not all of us do that, mind you, but those who like to keep score certainly do. I should know. I’m one of those people.
But a fresh encounter with grace has freed me from that and I truly am free! I was reminded of it again as I read a passage in Galatians:
Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law-I stopped trying to meet all its requirements-so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. (Galatians 2:16,19-21 NLT)
The requirements of keeping score are exhausting. But thank God His grace is inexhaustible! I don’t need to keep score. I don’t need to keep track of how often I read my Bible or how long I pray or how many weeks in a row I’ve been to church or how often I’ve served in the church nursery. Now all those things happen (super)naturally, because Christ lives in me, as Paul says in the passage above. Grace doesn’t give me reason to be lazy or give me a license to sin, but it frees me to live for God fully and freely, loving him and others extravagantly.
The only score that matters is: JESUS 1 SIN/DEATH 0