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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, June 29, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | Galatians 5:1, 13–25   

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. Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. (NRSV)

Reflection
Although we will never be able to fully reconstruct the bitter dispute between Paul and his unnamed critics in Galatia, one of the pieces that they seem to be wrestling with is to what degree new converts to Christianity (particularly Gentiles) are required to observe aspects of Jewish law. Paul lambasts those who claim that Jewish law must be observed fully, arguing instead that our faith is what makes us children of God rather than our observance of the law (see Galatians 3). And yet Paul’s view seems to have come under critique by at least some within the Galatians community who see faith’s centrality as dismissing the importance of what we do or how we behave.

In Galatians 5 and 6, Paul makes his counterargument: that although God has indeed set us free from needing to earn God’s love and grace through what we do, that does not mean that what we do does not matter. In Paul’s words in verse 13, “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become servants of one another.” If we truly are living by God’s spirit, Paul argues, our lives will be known by the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We do not live by these fruits to earn God’s love; we live by them to reflect the love God first gave us.

Prayer
Holy God, help me to live a life that honors your grace, mercy, and care—forgiving others because you first forgave me, and loving others because that is who you are: love. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

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