Human religious instinct and racing pigeons


The gospel frees people from trying to earn God’s acceptance through religious observance but human beings are like racing pigeons. Kept in comfortable but cramped coups, racing pigeons are taken away from their confinement and released, given freedom. They are free to take to the skies and yet they always return to their place of comfort and confinement.

In much the same way, the gospel takes us from the confines of our religious coup and releases us to fly free but our instinct is to find our way back to traditions as the means of our acceptance before God. It is much easier to say “you must come to church, you must be baptised, you must be kind, you must love your neighbour, you must not drink, smoke, sleep around or God will not accept you” than to say “I’m a sinner, I break God’s law, I can’t make myself acceptable but Jesus can.” The cross means freedom but, like the foolish Galatians, we often so easily drift back to the comfort of tradition:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. [Galatians 5:1-4]

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