For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
When Disney World opened in 1971, parking was $0.25, and an admission ticket was $3.50. By the time we went there on our honeymoon in 1975, the daily ticket price skyrocketed to $6.00. You then bought tickets and paid somewhere between $0.10 and $0.90 per ride. These are the famous A through E-Tickets.
But then in 1982, Disney did something remarkable and revolutionary. They stopped selling individual ride tickets and included all rides in the price of admission. Yes, the cost just to walk in the door went through the roof, but all the attractions were included.
This meant that once you were in, the whole park was open to you. Once you went through the entrance gate, you could put away your wallet when it came to rides. You were free to enjoy all the entertainment without having to bring out your credit card.
This kind of change for a park was unheard of. It’s one thing for a restaurant to change from a-la-cart to a buffet. But it was a huge gamble for a multi-billion-dollar theme park to do it.
And in a small way, changing from a-la-cart to an all-you-can-eat buffet shows the difference between law and grace.
Law is like a spiritual a-la-cart world. You pay a small admission price followed by an even smaller amount for each day. For each choice. For each word. For each thought. Spiritually speaking, you’re getting nickel-and-dimed-to death.
Grace is like a spiritual all-you-can-eat buffet. There’s one, large, upfront price that’s paid once-and-for-all. And that’s it. It’s all paid for. It’s done. It’s finished. You don’t have to show your receipt to anyone. The fact that you’re in is all that matters.
With the spiritual a-la-cart approach, you try and obey rules and laws. You’re responsible for watching and obeying all the laws. No one else is on the hook. It’s you and only you.
I don’t know about you, but that certainly sounds lonely. You’re on an island, all alone, and with no one else to help. It’s also a lot of pressure. It’s up to you and you alone. There’s not only no help, there’s also no one else to blame.
Paul reminds the Galatians that they came from the a-la-cart spiritual world. If they were raised in a Jewish home, there were the 613 laws of the Old Testament. If they were Gentiles, then they had all the rules and laws from the different gods they worshiped.
And Paul tells them the truth about obeying laws and following rules. You can swap all the details and specifics of all those rules with just five words: love your neighbor as yourself. This one sentence can replace all the books, lists, and apps that try and control you from the outside in.
When you love your neighbor as yourself, you change from an outside-in life to an inside-out life. You approach each and every day with a very different outlook of life.
But how can you want to love your neighbor as yourself? Where do you get the desire to want to love them? And where does the power come from to actually love them? Glad you asked. I’ll tell you.
The only way to love your neighbor as yourself is to know that you are loved. Period. If you don’t have the unmovable assurance that you are loved by God, then you won’t have the desire and power to love others.
Instead, you’ll be hurt and wounded deep inside your heart. And when you try and fill that hole in your soul, you’ll only be able to hurt others. You’ll do everything you can think of to steal happiness from others, inflicting pain on them. Putting them down. Showing how you’re superior.
The bad news is that there is absolutely no way to obey 613 laws on your own. The really bad news is that there’s also no way just to obey one law either. Both are just as unachievable. Both are just as impossible.
That’s why God did it all and paid the once-and-for-all payment for his loving relationship for us. His relationship with us is like the spiritual buffet. In Jesus Christ, the entire amount has been paid in full. Nothing more has to be done.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Most buffets you’ve ever been in are not all that good. There may be lots of stuff there, but the quality is poor. As you look at all the stuff you start to think, “I wonder how long that stuff’s been sitting there? Was it there all day today? Yesterday? The day before.
But not with our great and loving Heavenly Father. God only gives us himself.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Every day with God is new. Every day has great possibilities. Every day is filled with him. How could it get any better than that?