Freedom: From and For

Scripture: Galatians 5:1, 13-25

Key Verses: For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 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. (v. 1, 13)

Observation: Paul is writing to the Galatians to dissuade them from being circumcised as a means of securing salvation. His argument is that to receive circumcision is to believe salvation is accomplished by keeping the law. Jesus Christ has opened the way to salvation by grace through faith through his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension because of the inability of human beings to keep the whole law. Paul argues that seeking circumcision is to deny what Christ has done, namely setting the Galatians and all who believe in his salvific work free from the law. However, Paul warns that this freedom is not a license for the Galatians to do whatever they want. This freedom is not a means for taking advantage of others or seeking to destroy one another while claiming to live under grace. On the contrary, he posits that to use this freedom in this way is to enter into a different form of slavery and again deny the salvific work of Jesus Christ. Paul advises everyone to live by the Spirit, not by the flesh and gives a list of what both look like. The Galatians have been freed from the flesh so that they can live a life reflective of the works of the Spirit.

Analysis: I do not believe that it is a coincidence that this passage falls on the Sunday after Juneteenth and the Monday before July 4th. This is a God-incidence because both Juneteenth and July 4th are celebrations of freedom specific to the United States of America. The historical significance of each of these events has come to the forefront of discourse about race relations and as a result, this discourse has not always been reflective of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul suggests. Political power and a need to avoid a difficult past have caused some to cling to an understanding of freedom that would leave others in bondage. Paul reminds us that in Christ there is no circumcised or uncircumcised and I believe this extends to any form of division that we can conjure. Jesus has freed us of these divisions and the only way they continue to exist is because we take on this yoke of slavery as manifested in continued racial, religious, gender-based, and political strife. We have been freed for the work of faith that leads to love, joy, and peace. We have been freed for our own salvation but also for the work of inviting and leading others into this same salvation.

Prayer: Gracious and loving God, we can’t thank you enough for the salvation you have made possible through Jesus Christ. We are overjoyed when we consider all that you have done for us in freeing us from our destructive desires and making a way for us to experience your love, joy, and peace. Help us to live in the Spirit so that we will be the people you intend for us to be. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.


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