Not Letter, But Spirit

Not Letter, But Spirit

by Ty Gibson  |  April 5, 2013

As I took my seat on the plane, an energetic little boy came up the aisle with his dad. In my mind I thought, “I sure hope he’s not gonna be in the seat behind me.” As a frequent flyer, I know short legs tend to kick seatbacks.

As he walked past me, he smiled. Or was it a menacing grin?

Sure enough, his seat was behind mine. In a matter of seconds, the kicking began. For the first hour his father repeatedly scolded him, threatening the little guy: “If you don’t stop kicking that man’s seat, you’re going to be in big trouble. Is that what you want, big trouble?”

It’s all a matter of how we represent the character of God in our approach to people.

It was all to no avail. I got the distinct impression that all the threatening dad could heap on the little rebel was only stimulating more rebellion in him. So I took the matter into my own hands. Turning around in my seat, I looked up over the seatback and said, “Hi, my name’s Ty.” I reached my hand down offering to shake his. Hesitantly, he grabbed mine. Smiling, I said, “What’s your name?”

“Quentin,” he said, not yet trusting me.

“Cool name. As soon as I saw you, I knew you must have a cool name,” I said with a corny laugh. He laughed in response. Now we had a connection. I pulled out a piece of paper and drew a funny picture of him with his name over it. He laughed again. Now he liked me and we had relationship, or at least the beginning of one.

Then I said, “Hey Quentin, I’m gonna try to read, so don’t kick my seat, OK?”

“OK, Ty,” he said with a smile. And he never kicked again.

Paul had something like this in mind when he said that we are “ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

It’s all a matter of how we represent the character of God in our approach to people. People are responsive to relationships and resistant to pressure. We can either hand them “the letter” of the law, expressing the truth in terms of requirement and forbidding, oughts and nots, in which case we can expect failed promises at best, rebellion at worst, or we can present the heart of God, as revealed in Christ, and watch them warm up and become affectionately responsive to Him.

The term “new covenant” is jam-packed with brilliant significance. It basically means, the Law of God internally formed by the motive power of love as opposed to externally imposed by the self-defeating cycle of guilt.

Paul goes on to articulate the powerful engine that drives the new covenant:

“We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Beholding the beauty of God’s character in Christ is the catalyst for transformation in the new covenant. In Christ, God extended His hand and His heart to us. He knew that merely dictating rules would never change our hearts. But when we look into His face and realize He likes us, everything changes. Now we’re eager to do what pleases Him.

Ty Gibson Co-Director
Light Bearers
We reserve the right to approve and delete comments. By commenting, you agree to our comment guidelines. For reblogging or reproduction, see our reproduction guidelines.
  • Mrs. Dawn Joyce

    Thank you, Ty. That was beautiful and beautifully explained.

  • Tammy Hill

    Great illustration!

  • I don’t hear God scolding me. I hear Jesus saying: Allow me to love you more, to heal you with my love, to make you whole and complete in my love. When you are whole and complete, and satiated in my love, you won’t crave any other lovers anymore.

  • Tim

    Nice! I’ll have to remember that strategy next time I have a little seat kicker behind me. A non-Christian, even some Christians would not have handled it so gracefully as you did. Glad you were a living Epistle.

  • Coralie Young

    Loved these thoughts – thank you Ty. I’ve been trying to get my head around the old/new covenant and this illustration has made it clearer to me.

  • Jimmy Estrada

    Powerful! Love never fails

  • daryl corwin

    very much like this emphasis

  • rae

    That truly is a beautiful non-confrontational response – you brought out the best of Quentin (with God’s help), and I’ll bet his Dad was touched too – I sat in a library, the young man’s music through his headphones annoyed me with its heavyish beat – but my friend spoke to him with beautiful words of Christian love, just chatting, asking him questions – what a contrast to my silent grrr response – but, I can learn too – and your beautiful approach inspired me – thanks Ty.

  • Melissa

    Good response. Sure glad you are such a good mentor to Jennifer. She thinks you are ‘COOL’

  • Dianne

    What a beautiful illustration of God’s love when we’re being “bad”. Will be printing this out to share when I’m superintendent at church. God’s “disciplines” always come smothered in love. Thanks so much, Ty.

  • Rob

    Wow, that was inspiring. Thanks!

  • P.N.Rajendran

    Correct and rightful behaviour.But needs patience initially to bear the trouble.How to get this patience ?.By having the fruits of Holy spirit only.
    God bless Our dear Brother Ty.

  • Doug

    What a delightful clever way to navigate a situation we all can relate to. Although it strikes me that often childhood has to be restrained by authority and fear when our immaturity is dangerous. Childishness and evil are often more the domain of punitive restraint than spiritual enlightenment. Still, the beauty of Gods love was aptly conveyed. I’m much uglier and scary than you so I would have more than likely taken the low road.

  • Ricky

    Thanks brother. Blessings to the believers down-under.

  • Jackie Dutcher

    I love this – thank you for sharing the beauty of how we should treat others. A lesson to us all, especially me 🙂 God Bless You and your work!!!

  • Susanne

    Awwww, pastors/evangelists and airplane stories go together like beans and rice! If your a pastor on a long flight, especially with a lengthy lay over, you had better have a story!:) Good blog! Good topic! And amen!

  • Ty,

    I’m always blessed by your thoughts. This was no exception. You’re right–the WAY we see the gospel is so critical!

    God bless,


  • Ronny

    Love it Ty….another succinct delivery of Gods Grace. I gotta keep trying to remember that he’s my loving Dad, not someone I need to run and hide from in the Garden……Blessings mate

  • Thank you, Ty. God longs for us to live by His Spirit, through relationship with Him- then with others. Forcing things doesn’t work. God help us get the idea of relationship and stop “kicking the back of seats”!

  • David Le

    thats funny Ty, it reminds me of the time when my son Nathan(18) was about Quentin’s age and we were aboard a plane.. i kept telling him to stop kicking the chair in front of him… and about half way through the trip after numerous kicks to the seatback, the man in front of my son turned around like you but this is what he said “if you dont stop kicking my chair i’m gonna break your neck” we were shocked.. sad to say i responded in a not such a christian way.
    thank you for posting this story.. its a lesson we all need to learn.
    very eager to meet all of you guys when we go to CrossTraining in June.


  • Greg Middlestetter

    It’s great how God uses every-day situations to teach us about His love.

    That may have been a couple of angels sitting behind you saying , “OK, we have our instructions … Now start kicking! … I sure hope Ty is listening to His Father so that our actions don’t just end up ruining his day!”

    And when it was all done, “wonderful! He learned that lesson the first time around!”

  • Apryl

    Your illustration reminds me of a little saying I learned years ago when my children were little. “Rules without relationships harbors rebellion.” So very true, that the “love” relationship with Christ will beget love, not rebellion. Thank you, Tye, for being you and letting the love of Christ shine through you. .

  • claudinec

    No greater Love than the Love God

  • I love this! What a great illustration of God loving us right where we are – menacing messes in need of His graceful invitation to relationship.

  • Elizabeth Steinweg

    Wow! What a breath of fresh air!!! They you for the reminder of this extremely important principle to live by! Very cute story to illustrate it 🙂 Thank you for letting the light of God’s love beam through you to the world!

  • Precious story! Expressions of God’s Love in our daily contact with people is what it is all about! Thank you, Ty, for your continued connection with our precious Lord Jesus! Keep holding on tight to our heavenly Father, we are in need your witness!