"Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law?" (Galatians 4:21)The Galatians were being deceived by the persuasive words and cunning arguments of those who preached a message of bondage to the law. However, they were also being deceived by their own response to the message. They were responding to the message without really hearing the message. The question Paul asks them is literally, "Do you now hear what was written?" But how can one hear what was written? The issue is not hearing but understanding and that takes rational thought, contemplation, and understanding.
I believe that many of us are hindered in our Christian walk, and even sidetracked at times, because we try to live our Christianity on an emotional level without ever engaging our rational mind. Never stopping to really consider the message, purpose, and will of the life we are living. We float around from one emotion to another, from one experience to another, trying to satisfy some visceral need in our lives but never investing the necessary rational and cognitive thought into the things that really matter. We are like those whom Paul says are, "tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming." (Ephesians 4:14) Perhaps some examples will help us to understand how we often live life on auto-pilot without ever really considering the life we are living.
One of the greatest snares to our advancement in the things of God can be our traditions. Jesus came bringing a new covenant of life but all the Pharisees and religious elite could see was the old way of doing things. They asked Jesus, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders?" (Mark 7:5) They were living life according to their traditions without ever stopping to question their traditions, the message of Jesus, and what His message meant for their traditions. Sometimes we must stop long enough to question the old before we can embrace and receive the new. If we will then we may just find out that much of what we do we do because we always have, not because there is any good reason to do it.
Another snare is our sense duty and responsibility. Some people accept the Law because they have a deep seated sense within themselves that their life with God must somehow be formed in discipline, denial, and obedience to some code of morality. None of these things in and of themselves are wrong, but when we live by a misguided since of duty and responsibility it can lead us to a lifestyle that God has not chosen for us. We end up living by what we think is right rather than what is in fact right. When we do we end up living our own version of life and miss out on the life the Jesus has for us.
The third snare is our emotions and a romantic view of life. This could be where, knowing that God loves everybody, we believe that we too must "love" and that our message must always be "positive" with no mention of suffering, sacrifice, or judgment. For us, a life of "love" is built on an emotion of love rather than a true and pure form of love that God displayed when He sent Jesus to live and die for us. This can also be where, because of a romantic ideal we have of Jewish life in the Old Testament, we desire and attempt to be Jewish; living their lifestyle, accepting their symbols, and keeping their feasts. We hold this romantic notion that is often quite different from the actual reality we are trying to emulate. When we live by our emotions we are often subject to the ever switching winds and tossing waves and our lives lack the stability that God came to bring.
The moral of this story is that we must live our lives in truth and with our rational minds. Never afraid to really hear what is being said; never afraid to consider what is really true and how that truth impacts our life. We must live our lives with eyes, and ears, wide open; living with recognition, reason, and understanding.