The Bridge went bowling. It was a fun night as the group as able to come together after a great day of serving the needy in our community. They were tired and ready for some fun!
Most in the group bowled before and were able to relax and enjoy the night...but for one person.
This poor kid just couldn't get it. He had never bowled before and just bowled gutter ball after gutter ball. No doubt seeing time after time, throw after throw of the other kids knocking down pins made it worse for him.
But then I noticed something. He was walking up to the foul-line and then would stand there trying his best to aim the ball down the middle of the alley. He feared the gutter lanes. He feared throwing his ball and it running down the gutter knocking nothing down but his ego and pride. He was frozen in fear. He couldn't break into double digits for his entire game. The gutters were the very things he was trying to avoid and the more he tried to avoid them, the more he threw the ball into the gutters.
So a wise person (my wife) suggested we set up the bumpers on one alley and some of us bowl there while she asked this bowling rookie to join us. (Bumpers are rubber guides that won't let the ball get into the gutter...ever). So some of us bowled on this alley and what happened next was amazing! His score rose from less than 10 to over 100. What happened? First, he did hit the bumpers, guaranteeing some pins would fall - but he only hit the bumpers 3 or 4 times so something else had to happen!
When he saw the bumpers, he knew he couldn't fail so he lost his fear of making a mistake. He was set free! He was set free to just "throw the ball" and he did just that...right down the middle time and time again. He knew if he "erred" and threw towards the gutter the bumpers would guide his ball back to it's intended target. I saw the gutters as the law (you perform or else) and the bumpers as the Gospel...the demands have been met by Christ and His righteousness protects us from the wrath of gutter balls! We may throw one in the gutter but it is only Jesus who can rescue us (Rom 7: 24-25).
And this is what the Gospel does to us...it sets us free!! When we concentrate on the law (the law condemns and tells us we came up short - the "gutters") we will be so fearful of not breaking it, we will do nothing and live in fear. Yet because Jesus gave us His performance and His righteousness we are "a new creation" and "have been raised up". We can't make ourselves any better than He made us when we were...well made new.
Paul puts it this way in Galatians 5:1 "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery." The slavery was the slave to law and performance. For the young bowler it was the slavery of messing up and throwing the ball in the gutter and the bumpers set him free.
The law demands performance "or else" and the Gospel supplies the grace we need to live free.
When we get this and believe this, like this young bowler, will be set free to live an abundant life because "Therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."