It is "THAT" time of year! It is interesting that when I write those words they mean something different to each of us. To teachers, administrators, bus drivers, students and parents it is back to school. To the political minded it is settling in for a heated presidential race. For farmers it is getting ready for the harvest. For the church in the 1800's in America it was Camp Meeting time. For Methodists it is setting up the fall meetings we will convene to prepare for our Charge Conference (annual church-wide business meeting). For all of us in the south it is that hot, sultry, sweaty, gnatty and oppressive time we call "Dog Days."
In Paul's writings he talked about some personal dogs that were pursuing him and causing his people grief. The dogs Paul references in Philippians 3 are people who are Judaising legalists who "dog" the early Church to bring this new Christian movement back to Jewish customs, traditions and practices. Paul reminds the people in Philippi that they should not be tempted to go back to the failed and incomplete law that places emphasis on human effort, human practices and human deeds. Paul says that he followed the law in a perfection that exceeded his peers, yet Paul also said that he counts that perfect legalism worthless.
I remind each of you that we are still prone to legalism that pigeonholes people, theology and denominations. Paul calls legalism what it really is ... evil. He exhorts us, instead, to remember God's grace ... Jesus' desire for unity that comes from God's Spirit ... Jesus' (and Paul's) desire for joyful followers ... Jesus' desire for a unity that negates argument, complaining and division in the Church. Paul knew that these negatives are the end result of legalistic traditions and practices, whether they were in the 1st century Church or the Church in 2016. Randy