“Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” Luke 11:46 (New International Version)
Icebreakers are cool. There is something awesome and fearless about huge icebreaking ships smashing through frozen water to make a way for other ships. Before the days of all-steel icebreaking ships, wooden icebreaking ships were equipped with double planked hulls around the waterline and metal sheeting to protect the ship as it pushed through the ice.(1)
Today’s all steel ships still must be ice-strengthened to prevent serious damage when contacting the ice (remember the Titanic?). Modern icebreakers have 1) double hulls, 2) they have flat hulls to allow the ship to rise above the ice so that the ship can use it’s weight to break it, 3) they have hulls that are painted with special polymer paints to add strength and reduce friction, 4) they are usually equipped with a helicopter for ice-scouting work, 5) they have hulls that are built in such a way as to protect the rudder and propeller, 6) they are made with thicker steel, and 7) they have powerful bow and stern thrusters to help the ship get through the ice pack.(1)
Lately I have been thinking a lot about the work of the Holy Spirit and how Paul was a powerful “icebreaker” in the early church. The second chapter of Galatians is a case in point. God used Paul to “break the ice” of Jewish legalism in the early church that was causing even Peter and Barnabas to stumble by refusing to eat with their non-Jewish Christian brothers and sisters. Paul was certainly not one to “drill holes” in the ice, the Bible says, “When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.” (Galatians 2:11-13, NIV)
Why do Christ-followers often let rules and traditions (legalism) become “ice” that provides a false sense of support? Doesn’t this “legalistic ice” ultimately prevent our contact with the Living Water that flows below the surface? What traditions and rituals have we allowed to form in the modern church (and in our own lives) that prevent us from loving and accepting all people like Jesus did? I do not believe that God created us to be hole drillers who live in igloos made of frozen blocks of judgementalism. He created us to be bold, yet humble, deep sea Holy Spirit-led adventurers. The Bible tells us, “You do not rejoice in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalms 51:16-17, NIV).
Dear Lord, help us to transform from hole drillers to icebreakers who are not afraid to take a stand for love and for Truth. Help us to value people more than pride. Please forgive us when we have followed behind icebreakers like Paul and settled for building igloos out of the ice chunks of legalism instead of loving others and leading them to the fresh, open and Living Water.