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Monday, February 6, 2017

Today's Scripture Reading | Galatians 4:21—5:1

Tell me, you who desire to be subject to the law, will you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and the other by a free woman. One, the child of the slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise. Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the other woman corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, “Rejoice, you childless one, you who bear no children, burst into song and shout, you who endure no birthpangs; for the children of the desolate woman are more numerous than the children of the one who is married.” Now you, my friends, are children of the promise, like Isaac. But just as at that time the child who was born according to the flesh persecuted the child who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. But what does the scripture say? “Drive out the slave and her child; for the child of the slave will not share the inheritance with the child of the free woman.” So then, friends, we are children, not of the slave but of the free woman.

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (NRSV)

This passage is difficult to understand. The Apostle Paul created an allegory using the story of Sarah, Hagar, and their sons. Biblical commentaries give many pages to decipher its meanings. Its central truth is that the person who makes law the principle of life is in the position of a slave, whereas the one who makes God’s grace the principle of life is free. Christ has made us free.

This freedom is not what we celebrate on the Fourth of July. Nor does it refer to autonomy or an inner liberty of the conscience or will. Freedom in Christ manifests itself through faith communities in which the old barriers of nation, class, race, and gender are overcome in communion at one table. It is a freedom for mutual service in love. It is the power of love, not the constraint of the law, that keeps us on the path of abundant life. As St. Augustine (who lived from 354 to 430) said, “Love God and do what you will: whether you hold your peace, through love hold your peace; whether you cry out, through love cry out; whether you correct, through love correct; whether you spare, through love do you spare: In all things, let the root of love be within, for of this root can nothing spring but what is good.”

When God’s gift of love is the governing principle of our lives, we are freed so that all that we think, say, and do will necessarily be yielded to that love. If our love of God is real and profound, then obedience and faithfulness, right thinking and right actions, will flow irresistibly from that love.

Train my soul in love, Beloved One. Let me so receive your gift of freedom that your love pours forth from me. Amen.

Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission

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