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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Today’s Scripture Reading | Galatians 5:1–15

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love. You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth? Such persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. I am confident about you in the Lord that you will not think otherwise. But whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty. But my friends, why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!

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. (NRSV)

Paul was working with the new (Gentile) Christians gathered in the Roman province of Galatia. Paul’s entire mission was to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and grow communities of faith. Paul writes letters to all of the communities with which he’s working to encourage and teach them the ways of Christian life.

Somehow, while Paul was away, someone gave this community another idea of how to live out Christian faith (circumcision and food regulations). And Paul is not happy. His letter is one long, angry, and passionate argument to return to the course originally set out. According to Paul, there is nothing we need to do to gain entry into the household of God. The grace of God in Jesus Christ is the only doorway by which we enter into this new creation.

Paul teaches that in Christ we are given freedom. Freedom in Christ is not an “individualistic,” “go-it-alone,” “anything-goes” kind of freedom. Instead, the freedom Christ offers is a “freedom for” rather than “freedom from.” We have been released from sin and are free to live for the purposes of God. This freedom is not a new set of rules or regulations but is about being set free for a journey into the cost and joy of Christian discipleship.

Yes, Paul is passionate about all of this, and it shows. For Paul, the Christian way is about love. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves—to love as God loves—needing to do nothing to earn that love.

O God, in the love of Christ you have given freedom to live for you alone. Keep my mind fully aware of the grace you impart and my heart ever grateful for the unearned gift of your love. Amen.

Written by Shawn Fiedler, Ministerial Associate for Worship

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