No More Nanny
by Ken Dale
Once upon a time, long, long ago, way back in time, in the good ol? days, people wrote letters. It was long before e-mails, tweets and texts. Hand held writing instruments called pens were put to paper, sometimes in very powerful ways. In fact, there was a phrase, ?the power of the pen.? Have you ever heard of Charlotte Braun? She lost her life to that power. She was the creation of Charles Shultz. She was a pushy version of Charlie Brown noted for speaking too loudly. She was introduced in November 1954. But a Charlie Brown fan named Elizabeth Swaim wrote Shultz a letter complaining about Charlotte. And on January 5, 1955, Charles Shultz wrote her a letter saying: “I?am taking your suggestion regarding Charlotte Braun and will eventually discard her. If she appears any more it will be in strips already created or because someone writes in saying that they like her. Remember, however, that you and your friends will have the death of an innocent child on your conscience. Are you prepared to accept such?responsibility?” The letter ended with a sketch of Charlotte Braun standing with an ax in her head.
The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to a group of Greek speaking converts to Christianity who wondered if they needed to add Jewish religious practices to their new faith in Jesus. Paul writes back to them that there was no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female,?but that all were one in Christ. Before Paul put his pen to the paper (or papyrus) the religious law of the Bible restrained and protected the?people ? even prevented them from hurting themselves and others. Paul uses the word ?disciplinarian? in reference to the law. The word he uses had a very specific meaning in that first century Greco-Roman world. The disciplinarian was a slave who supervised and guarded children, keeping them safe, overseeing their education and behavior. Sort of like a nanny. Once the children grew up, the protective custody of that slave was no longer needed. What Paul is saying in this part of his letter is that in the history of faith, we were guarded under the??nanny? of the law ?until the faith would be revealed.? In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ ? the faith is revealed.
People had faith in God for hundreds of years, but it all really changed with the life of Jesus the Christ. In essence, in this letter, Paul is saying, no more nanny. Through Christ we are children of God. We are justified by faith ? by trusting in him and believing what God has accomplished in and through his life, death and resurrection. It used to be keeping the law ? but now the only human action required is belief and trust in Jesus Christ ? and of course living accordingly. What a powerful letter he has written!
?That faith is what makes us children of God ? and all those dividing walls come down ??so in that very early church there were those who continued to keep the law and those who knew nothing about that law. There were also the dividers of Jew and Greek, male and female, slave and free ? Paul says you are now all one in Christ. What matters is the faith ? that?s what makes you children of God. Paul uses the phrase ?clothed in Christ? as we considered last week. We seek to take on his characteristics and do our best to present him to the world in every aspect of our living ? showing his grace, his love, speaking his truth, serving others with compassion and generosity. And compared to the world in which we?live ? yes, wearing the clothes of Christ makes us look a little odd ? but we will have an impact. We are called to something greater than the?script of the world ? the way the world calls us to be. And we are?blessed to be a blessing.
I?d like to close with a favorite story that I think makes the point of how in any situation we can be that blessing — and we are freed and empowered to do so by faith. The story comes from Robert Fulgham?s book, Uh Oh. It?s about Norman, a quiet young man who didn?t talk much in class. He didn?t say much, not because he was shy or bashful but because he didn?t like talking about nothing ? he spoke when had something to say. It was time for the annual school play and this year it was Cinderella ? and all the children were shouting for parts ??Cinderella, the Handsome Prince, even the wicked stepmother and ugly stepsisters. Soon with the creation of a few additional parts ? everyone was assigned a part, except Norman.
Knowing Norman very well the teacher said, ?Norman, I?m afraid all the main parts have been taken for Cinderella ? but I?m sure we can find a part for you. What character would you like to be?? Without?hesitating Norman said, ?I would like to be the pig.? ?Pig?? said the teacher, ?but there is no pig in Cinderella.? Norman smiled and said, ?There is now.? And he designed his own costume with a paper cup nose and pink long underwear complete with a pipe cleaner tail.
Norman?s pig followed Cinderella wherever she went and mirrored the action on the stage. If Cinderella was happy, the pig was happy. If she was sad, the pig was said. One look at Norman and you knew the emotion of the moment. At the end of the play when the glass slipper went on Cinderella?s foot and she and the prince went off to live happily ever after ? Norman went wild with joy and danced around on his hind legs and broke his silence by barking. In rehearsal the teacher tried explaining to Norman that even if there was a pig in Cinderella, pigs don?t bark. But as expected, Norman explained that this pig barked. And the teacher admitted that the barking was well done. It was a smash hit ? and at the curtain call, guess who got a standing ovation??Of course, Norman the barking pig ? who was after all the real?Cinderella.
Norman resisted the limits of the script and refused to believe that he had no place, and rather than being limited by that script, he found a way to enhance it, and fill it full of life, laughter, and surprise. Justified by faith ? we too are set free in Christ ? set free to love and live.