The daily readings for this week take us into the final chapter of Galatians. Paul continues to plead with his Gentile brothers and sisters to not become shackled by the Law of Moses.
Today’s reading, Galatians 5:2-15, poses an interesting paradox. He tells his friends that “you were called to freedom.”
We, especially in the USA, like the sound of that. Sweet freedom. I can do whatever I want. I’ve got no strings to hold me down. Let’s party!!
Hold on a second, Paul cautions. “do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another (v.13).”
Wait a minute, Paul. Which is it? Are we free, or are we slaves? The answer drips with paradox…YES. We have been set free, through Jesus, from the shackles of Sin and Death and the negative messages that we are dirty, rotten sinners that deserve nothing better than punishment. We have been set free from hopelessness, despair, and fear that leads to hatred, violence, war, famine, sickness, disease, and death.
We have not been set free to believe that I am the center of the universe and deserve to get anything I desire, like a four-year old. We have been set free to realize that there is only one rule of the universe: Love. “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'(v. 14)”
To truly love yourself is to realize that I am a good and valuable part of God’s beautiful creation, but I am not the center of creation. I am a part of an intricate web of interdependence to which I contribute something valuable and from which I am dependent for life. Therefore, to love myself is to value and love every other part of creation. That is what Paul means when he says, “through love become slaves to one another.”
So, today, remember that you are loved by God. You have been set free through Jesus Christ and empowered in the Holy Spirit to serve love to your neighbor. We’ll talk more about the spirit later this week.