Old Testament Reading: Deuteronomy 25 & 26
Psalms Reading: Psalm 89
*New Testament Reading: Galatians 5
What does freedom look like to you? You may visualize prisoners being set free from their jail sentence, dogs off of broken chains, large, open spaces outdoors, maybe even a child who snuck away from the crowd and is exploring their world all on their own (while parents panic…).
Paul is describing here in Galatians freedom from living life following a strict law. In our passage in Deuteronomy, we read about some of the punishments (flogging, losing credibility with the whole nation, having a hand cut off…) for not following the laws, or accidentally breaking them. With that in mind, this makes the concept of freedom that Paul is reminding people of that much more dramatic. Before Jesus, the only way to be right with God was to follow these strict laws, it was only meant for a certain group of individuals set apart from the rest, and it was nearly impossible to achieve as an outsider, let alone someone born and raised as a Jew.
In verse 13 Paul tells the Galatians they have been called to be free. Imagine being told your whole life that there is nothing more for you, and suddenly having hope and opportunity through a man that loved enough to die for strangers. This concept would be (and still is) life-altering! Paul is reminding the people of this church that they have freedom, they are no longer bound by the previous laws that kept them from God!
In this reminder Paul also cautions them to be wise in their freedom, and to use this freedom to serve one another. It is crazy to see the statistics on the number of children that grow up in a Christian household, maybe isolated or sheltered, and go to college and drastically change their lifestyles by going overboard with poor life choices with their newfound ‘freedom’. That is our human nature! And that same mentality must have existed with the Galatians as Paul warns them to not use this freedom or this gift of grace to indulge in the flesh, but rather to serve one another humbly in love (v.13).
Our freedom was bought with a price, and yet we are not in debt. We no longer have to live under a strict law, rather, we can keep the entire law by loving our neighbor as ourselves (v.14). And while our freedom could create opportunity for sin, we are told that we walk by the Spirit to avoid desires of the flesh(v.16) and that through that Spirit we can experience the good fruit such as love, joy, and peace (v.22). Knowing all that, it’s hard to imagine freedom any other way besides the cross.
What does “walking by the Spirit” look like to you? Do you see the fruits of the Spirit come from that walk?
How do you use your freedom? Do you meet the commands of loving your neighbors?
Paul writes in verse 6 “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (rather than appearance of ‘righteousness’ through circumcision). How do you express your faith?
Lord, thank you for the freedom you give us through Christ. Thank you for his sacrifice that paid our debt and moved us out from under the strict law. God, we pray that we would walk by your Spirit each day, that our faith would be expressed in our love, and that we would experience those good fruits. Amen.
-Sarah (Blanchard) Johnson