This week is the fourth of July! I hope you have a wonderful and relaxing day celebrating with your family and friends. I hope you have time to think about what freedom means as a follower of Christ. We are free in Christ, but what is that freedom for?
This week I preached out of Galatians. I almost never preach out of the epistles. I find them tricky to work with. So this week I spent a lot more time understanding what was happening within the community and why Paul might say those things to that people group. Paul was speaking to a group of people that he knew well. Galatia was one of the first places he planted a church and frankly I think his pride was a little hurt that they were listening to a second group of people who came into their space and said Oh no! You have to do A BUNCH OF EXTRA to be a christian. Here is a huge list of rules we need you to follow. Paul is not having that. With that context in mind I think the passage makes a lot more sense.
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
1 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. 16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
The people of Galatia were being told if they didn’t follow EVERY SINGLE RULE then surely they would completely spin out of control into being totally bad and horrible. They were told there was either the TOTALLY STRICT way of following all the rules perfectly or there was the TOTALLY TERRIBLE way of just completely leaning into every selfish desire you could think of. You either get it together and follow the right way, or you are bad, bad bad.
But Paul isn’t having this interpretation of Jesus. Paul asks the people of Galatia not about the rules, but about the fruit of their work. Is all of this rule following leading to tearing each other down? To destroying each other? If you are being mean and hateful to one another then that isn’t okay REGARDLESS of if it is all about “following the rules.” The first rule is loving our neighbor.
Paul then goes on to explain that living completely by the rules or being completely taken over by the flesh are not the only ways of living in this life. We can choose a third way, a way that asks the question, how can I be free in a way that helps everyone be free? How can I live my life in a way that encourages my neighbor? What evidence can I see that my behavior is pleasing to God?
Do you see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?
If you do, then great! KEEP DOING THAT. If not, don’t you want to? We are free from the law, but not because the law is bad. We are free then to also practice the law when it serves our community well. Imagine a community where the question was, is this loving and kind and gentle? Am I being faithful to my God, myself and others? Do I need to try patience and self-control?
To me, those sounds like radical questions! I know for a fact it would transform my own life and my own home. This is also a good reminder that there is no such thing as a lone ranger christian. We practice faith communally and we have to learn to work it out with each other. We are designed for each other. We belong to each other, this passage shows us how to do that.
This week we are praying for a number of health concerns in the congregation.
Please also keep a full time job for me (Pastor Abby) in your prayers.
We have a community that is particularly sensitive to the extra ICE raids, please be praying for them.
If you would like to contribute to the work that New Hope does you can do so here: https://paypal.me/pools/c/89YOMDyWFq
Please let us know how we can be in community with you both near and far.