Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Sort of" Free in Christ?

I got to preach on one of my favorite verses this past Sunday. Because it was part of a larger passage I was wanting to expose, I had to "hit it and move on" rather than dwell on it alone for a while. If I had been a little smarter or more alert, I would have notice a long time ago how supremely relevant Paul's letter to the Galatians is. I guess it was aways just hard enough to understand that I tended to use verses and sections without noticing the over all purpose of his letter. Legalism, whether it's found in Moses or man made laws, robs people of their freedom in Christ. That freedom is an inseparable part of the gift of grace, and grace is a very expensive gift from God. So it is no wonder that Paul pulls no punches in warning and condemning anyone who would elevate law over love. (see 5:4-6)
His point is summed up powerfully in that favorite verse I referred to at the beginning. It is verse one of chapter five, "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."
It gives me chills to read it. For many people, freedom in Christ means you are free to believe and agree with everything they believe, it means you are free to have fellowship with them as long as you obey and follow their traditions, and you must see their opinions as equal to God's truth rather than something to "agree to disagree" about.
It gives me chills because Paul is so clear that freedom in Christ isn't just a great spiritual slogan. We have been set free, and that is what it means! No one has any right or power to change my relationship with Jesus or to place any burden on me that Jesus hasn't placed on me. That is true whether it is a person, an organization, a church, or even family. If I let them, I'm choosing a yoke of slavery that Jesus never intended for me to carry.
It gives me chills because Paul declared "stand firm" and don't let it happen! Those early brethren where having a hard time letting go of their works and performance geared approach religion. Today we don't struggle with people requiring obedience to the Old Law, but we do struggle with people binding rituals, rules, guilt, external acts of righteousness, dishonest and inconsistent interpretations of scripture, institutional expectations, Lording leaders, sacred traditions, uniformity, and beam-eyed judgmentalism - just to name a few. I can hear Paul screaming off the pages of my Bible saying, "STAND FIRM - DO NOT LET YOURSELVES BE BURDENED AGAIN BY A YOKE OF SLAVERY!"
How can that not give you chills? Grace means freedom in Christ!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm going to be VERY sad when the series of lessons in Galatians is finished!