Not of Letter but of Spirit

1 Corinthians 3:3-13

"Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit." 

The early Christian church, which the apostle Paul is helping to build up through these passages, marks an amazing shift in religious thought. Whereas the communities of believers have been overly focused on obeying detailed written commandments, Paul is preaching a message about a particular kind of spirit. 

Have you ever known anyone who was so focused on the "letter of the law" that he or she was looking past the "spirit" of the law? That's a helpful idea for understanding Paul's new message; the written laws are not unimportant, but they only have their proper meaning in light of a particular spirit of love. 

This is a reassuring message for all of us! Rather than having to focus on "score-keeping" about which laws we have kept and which we have missed, we are free to focus on our relationships. But this freedom comes with a deep and profound challenge: we have to focus on love. This is the challenge of Lent. Freed from the burden of detailed religious laws, we are challenged to focus on how our relationships with one another fall short of the Spirit of Christ which we are meant to follow. Are we up for the challenge?