Scripture Reading: Exodus 20:1-17, Matthew 5:17-19, Romans 8:1-4
“Are you an innie or an outie?”
Belly buttons thrive in the economy of middle school locker rooms. As if zits and parents and slow dances weren’t enough to make our lives as dramatic as we thought they were, navels had to get involved. And although we’d lived with the same inward or outward belly button postures our whole preteen lives, suddenly, it mattered. We became expert navel-gazers, which is just as strange and gross as it sounds. I was (well, still am) an “innie,” but when we discovered that my friend Tiffany was the only “outie” in our class, her reign as 7th grade queen began. Who knew that was all it took to gain power?
“Innies” and “outies” are created by the leftover scars of our umbilical cord—the one that once connected us to our mothers. The difference in their shape matters much less when we remember they all once served the same purpose—keeping us alive. We all need to be connected to something else to live. We cannot sustain ourselves.
But all too often, we are quick to look down at our own flesh and see power instead of need, strength instead of weakness. And when we do that, it’s easy to think that all we need to become better is a nice set of rules. The law was a pretty great set of rules—the best around!—except, while it could keep us in line, it couldn’t keep us alive. Minister Matthew Henry described the law like this: “It could neither justify nor sanctify, neither free us from the guilt nor from the power of sin, having not the promises either of pardon or grace. The law made nothing perfect: It was weak.”
The law was weakened, not by the strength of our flesh but by the weight of its sin (Romans 8:3). We’re all born sinners, after all (Romans 5:12).
But one person wasn’t. One child was born into weak flesh to bear sin’s weight for the rest of us and do what the law could never do. Jesus Christ came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). He did not come to leave us in death, but to give us life.
Regardless of whether we’re “innies” or “outies,” we are united to Christ by faith. When this happens, theologian John Stott said that “something so tremendous happens that the New Testament cannot find language adequate to describe it. It is a new birth, yes, but also a new creation, a resurrection, light out of darkness, and life from the dead. We were slaves, now we are sons. We were lost, now we have come home. We were condemned and under the wrath of God, now we have been justified and adopted into his family.”
The law of God we cannot keep. But the love of God is ours forever, without condemnation. May we live and breathe this truth today. Amen.