Sunday the 26th of June
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
If I were to ask you the question: what is freedom? I wonder how you would answer. In our culture freedom is very important to us. We want and we long to be free. Maybe it’s free from financial restraints; free from the demands of work; free from the hassles of family life, particularly where there is conflict. But it can also go further than this: people want to be free to do what they want, without anyone else telling them what to do; the gay marriage movement often talks about his kind of freedom, and they want to be free to marry without having others tell them that what they are doing is wrong.
And if you take this one step further, we get to the heart of sin don’t we, we want to be free from God and his law to do what we want to do with our lives. We want to be free to do as we please, what makes us feel good; what suits our goals in life. We want to be free from others telling us what to do; we want to be free from any accountability. This type of freedom is something that is very important to our culture.
Our God tells us that we are free because of Jesus. Today’s epistle reading from Galatians chapter 5 says this: “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.” Because Jesus has forgiven our sins we are free. But it is not a freedom as the world around us understands freedom. It goes on to say: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (v13). You and I have been freed by the gracious and loving action of Jesus from the burden of pleasing God with our works and trying to earn salvation, we are called to use our energy and our lives not in an exercise of self-gratification but rather in service and love to each other. This is truly what freedom in the gospel and service to our brothers and sister Christ is all about.
Freedom from the requirements of the law does not constitute an “anything goes” freedom; our freedom still has constraints. The constraints are the responsibility and commitment to the welfare of others in the community. In other words we free for a purpose, this purpose is to love and serve others, not focus on our own self indulgence of our sinful natures.
As you well know we are coming up to an election, and I don’t know about you but election campaigns grate me, they annoy me. You would have herd and you will definitely hear in the next week all sorts of the sins that are mentioned in today’s reading. Here are some examples: hatred, discord; jealousy; fits of rage; selfish ambition; dissensions; factions and envy. These are just some of the ways that sin shows itself, and in elections campaigns we see many of these on public display.
But while we might point the finger at our politicians and political parties, the truth is that each of us suffers from the same sinful hearts and minds: our sinful nature’s battle the Spirit, The Spirit is inhibited by our sinful nature. And this affects our own hearts, but also can play out in our own Church community. We so easily fall into the trap of behaving the same way with each other.
We have freedom in Jesus. But what do you do with this freedom? What do I do with mine? This is key question. Jesus has freed us from the burden of our sin, from our earning God’s love, from our pulling ourselves up by our own strength to approach God. With all that energy, no longer needed to earn a new and healthy relationship with God, what do I do with it? What do you do with it?
The reality is that we have this freedom, but we also have choices about what we do with it. You and I could make the choice to go after our own desires, indulge in our sinful natures (17–21).Go for it! We are free! We have the freedom to do this. We can say: Don’t anyone tell me what to do. I am the one who is control here; I am in charge of my own destiny. We live in the land of freedom, so don’t tread on me. I have rights. I can do what I like. If you don’t do it the way that I want I’ll leave, because I have that freedom. And this is true we have this freedom.
You and I could make the choice to use our freedom go after the fruit of the Spirit (22–25.) Go for it! We are free! Just do it! Love God, serve your neighbour. Give at least some of your money to the poor. Listen closely to those with whom we disagree, so closely that we can really understand why their position is so important to them. Take some time to find out about the person who you don’t know very well. Begin, or continue, praying for others. Invite your neighbors over for food and talk, show hospitality. Engage those with whom you work in the name of Christ who set all of us free. We have the freedom to do this also.
We all have choices to make about how we use our freedom in Jesus. Let’s be honest here it is not easy. But here in this reading God is urging us to reflect on this reality. To ask the hard questions, like: How much difference do our Christian faith and the work of the Holy Spirit make to our life together in this Christian community? How do they affect our lives “out in the world” so to speak? Do you and I make use of of God’s gift in Christ of the fruit of the Spirit. Do we steadfastly resist the works of our sinful natures both within and without?
How well do we love ourselves and exercise the fruit of the Spirit in our internal relationship with and to ourselves? Do we substitute self-love for self-indulgence? How well do we actively go against our culture, which puts the entire focus on self-interest? And do we love and serve each other in a way which builds up the Christian community and enables us to “bear one another’s burdens”? (Galatians 6:2).
As God says through Peter in his letter:” Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. (1 Peter 2:16). We are to use the freedom that we have to serve God and to love others. As it says in today’s reading 13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful; nature; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
Jesus went through his journey to that cross, to free us from the burden of our sins. Jesus paid the price for you and me to make us free, so that we are no longer enemies of God. But we are to use that freedom to love one another, to serve our others, not to indulge in our sinful nature. And what does this love look like, well it is the fruit of the Spirit as it says: “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.”
As Christians, who live together in this Christian community are encouraged by God, through his Word, to walk with him. To recognise that we: “…who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” and that “…we live by the Spirit” therefore “…let us keep in step with the Spirit” and we know that we are doing this when the fruit of the Spirit is evident among us.
The freedom that you and I have is not to be used as the freedom that the world around us understands, it is not about being independent, doing what we want. Rather because we have received this freedom of our sins because of God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ, we are to use our freedom to love him and serve others. We are to use our freedom in an attitude of humility and thankfulness to God for what he has done for us and share it with others.