For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.
For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
- Galatians 5:1, 13-15
I invite you to read the ancient words written by Paul, a prominent preacher writing to the early Christians in Galatia, in Asia Minor (by Turkey) printed in bold.
These words are thought to be around 1,950 years old and yet they still make sense and challenge us in today - how amazing is that!
The theme of freedom seems like an appropriate topic as we in the U.S. get ready to celebrate the 4th of July. We celebrate the imagination of a nation “of the people, by the people, for the people (Lincoln, Gettysburg Address).”
This free society imagined is not a chaotic free-for-all where each person is encouraged to do what feels good at the time. Rather this freedom crafted and expressed in our constitution is a freedom for the sake of building a people and place where each person is valued, has a fair chance at happiness and a sustainable living, and where we care for and shelter our weak and vulnerable. Freedom for the sake of wholesome, vibrant and thriving communities.
Freedom for the sake of something greater, something better. That is what Paul is talking about. Jesus takes away the score sheets, the naught or nice lists and puts an end to the system of rewards and punishments.
Jesus gives you and me freedom from counting our sins and trying to make up for them. In other words (fancy churchy words) we are freed from the law dictating our status and relationship with God. Jesus makes it so your sins don’t stick to you, you are forgiven (again and again and again …) - “nothing can separate you from the love of God (Romans 8).” Nothing includes your own sin, doubt, and, of course, hell.
Now that you are freed from the fear of hell (you are forgiven and Jesus’ faith makes the way to heaven open to you!), you and I can get to work loving each other, caring for the Earth and building up our towns, our neighbors, and communities. Why waste our time biting and devouring one another? Let’s work together imaging and creating communities that are safe, vibrant and healthy for you and for me and for everyone. You and I are freed for Christ’s sake, because of Jesus’ love for you, now let us live our lives of freedom in such a way that the world is a better place because we were here.