Scripture

Galatians 5

Freedom in Christ

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. 11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

Life by the Spirit

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself. 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Reflection

There are few nations in the world where the founding idea was as simple as one word, “Liberty.” It is defined as a: the power to do as one pleases. b: freedom from physical restraint. c: freedom from arbitrary or despotic control. d: the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges. e: the power of choice. 

This idea of freedom has always been a core value for America, though we sometimes forget this and value some people’s liberty at the expense of others. We celebrated Independence Day yesterday, which is a celebration of the birth of a nation, but also the birth of a dream, liberty for all. As a nation, we continue to work at this.

This liberty, or freedom, comes with risks, however. My liberty should not infringe on someone else’s freedom. In fact, I should use my liberty to ensure others get the same. We can each use freedom for good, or for ill. And while each of us has to wrestle with this idea as individuals and citizens, as Christians, we have a higher calling. It is clear, that we are to use our freedom and liberty to serve a greater good. Galatians 5:13 records “Use your freedom to serve one another.” The beauty of freedom in God’s kingdom is that it allows us to follow our heart rather than a set of rules. Jesus came to free us from rules. He didn’t say ignore them, but he did teach us that love of God and love of others is the highest rule of all.  Liberty leaves us open to all possibilities of kindness, generosity, and selfless acts. How will you use your freedom today?

Prayer

God of all, Thank you for life, opportunity, freedom, and the grace you give me each day. Remind me that I am fortunate to live in such abundance and show me how to use what has been given to me to serve others. Help me not think of myself as superior, but rather live in gratitude and humility as a witness to your grace and mercy. I give this day, this life back to you. May you use me to bless others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.