Galatians – Freedom in Christ!
When men and women get their hands on religion, one of the first things they often do is tun it into an instrument for controlling others, either putting or keeping them “in their place”. The history of such religious manipulation and coercion is long and tedious It is little wonder that people who have only known religion on such terms experience release or escape from it as freedom. The problem is that the freedom turns out to be short-lived.
Paul was religious. He was a rule keeper. Wait, that is understated. Paul was notoriously and radically religious…until He met Jesus. Personally. Before Jesus, he used the rules he learned well from childhood, to intimidate, jail, destroy and maim, bringing down anyone who was disobedient to religion in his eyes.
Then he met Jesus. Jesus took him on a journey of laying down the religion he knew and passionately practiced that persecuted others seeking Him, to a new path of complete freedom in Christ. How did Jesus get Paul’s attention? Paul was strong and formidable before he had a personal encounter with the Son of God, Jesus. Jesus, at just the right time, stopped the madness and brought Paul to his knees on a dusty road. Jesus struck him blind physically. Paul had no place to look but up at Jesus. Then Jesus asked, “Why do you persecute Me?”
“Why do you persecute Me?” That question stops me on my journey at times. It causes me to reevaluate my own behavior. Am I trying to keep rules of religion and traditions that are man made, too? It’s so easy to fall into that behavior with others. Do I persecute brothers and sisters seeking Jesus? Do I want those who have found Jesus to be more like me, to follow all the unwritten rules of our church traditions, to join the groups I belong to or else with an “I can’t be your friend” attitude? Do I look at what others wear and how they behave with rolling eyes of disgust? Do I make snide remarks that make others feel bad? Words maim. Words kill spirits. When we “persecute” others with our behavior, we persecute Christ. One in the same. But I digress.
Through Jesus, Paul learned that God was not an impersonal force to be used to make people behave in certain prescribed ways, but a personal Savior who set us free to live a free life. God did not coerce us from without, but set us free from within.
It was a glorious experience! So Paul set off telling others, introducing and inviting everyone he met into this free life! Churches were founded with Christ as the cornerstone and foundation. Later, after Paul left, the “old guard” of religion seeped back into the churches Paul founded in the province of Galatia. Paul, of course, was furious. He was furious with the old guard for coming in with their strong-arm religions tactics and intimidating the Christians into giving up their free life in Jesus. But he was also furious with the Christians for caving in to the intimidation.
Hence the letter to the Galatians. Paul’s letter helps them, (and us), recover the original freedom. It also give directions in the nature of God’s gift of freedom–most necessary guidance, for freedom is a delicate and subtle gift, easily perverted and often squandered.
Religion versus relationship.
Rules versus the freedom to run in the fields…the wide open spaces of freedom in Christ!
Dear Heavenly Father,
Show us your path to freedom. We love you with all our heart, mind and soul. May our relationships with you go deeper still. Teach us. Give us wisdom. Restore the joy of Your salvation in and through us as we read these words inspired by You. Set us free from ourselves and the religion we sometimes serve to walk out into the wide open spaces of your love. Freedom brings adventure. Your servant is listening…
Transform me. Transform Your church. Transform the world.
In Jesus Name, Amen
Galatians 1, The Message
1-5 I, Paul, and my companions in faith here, send greetings to the Galatian churches. My authority for writing to you does not come from any popular vote of the people, nor does it come through the appointment of some human higher-up. It comes directly from Jesus the Messiah and God the Father, who raised him from the dead. I’m God-commissioned. So I greet you with the great words, grace and peace! We know the meaning of those words because Jesus Christ rescued us from this evil world we’re in by offering himself as a sacrifice for our sins. God’s plan is that we all experience that rescue. Glory to God forever! Oh, yes!
Did you get that? JESUS rescued us! We are free indeed!