FREED FOR LOVE
“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 5:13-15)
I will remind the participants in the Rocky Mountain Jesus School this Saturday that living in Christ is about loving - loving God, loving others, loving yourself, loving the planet, loving - period. Those of us who are followers of Jesus are called to grow in our capacity to love.
Paul is writing to the churches in Galatia, reminding them that the Gentiles who have committed themselves to Christ do not need to undergo circumcision as a sign of their inclusion in God’s covenant. Christ has set them and everyone free from these kinds of legal demands, and - as we see in the verses above - our freedom is not “an opportunity for self-indulgence” (verse 13), but an opportunity through love to become servants/slaves of one another. We are not to submit to a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1) - the Jewish law. We are set free to love. Paul reminds them that the entire Jewish law can be summarized in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” I believe Paul didn’t include the obvious on this occasion because it was so obvious... the reminder that we are also called to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul. And - with respect to loving our neighbor - Jesus made it very clear in the parable about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:23-37) that we were to BE A NEIGHBOR to any we saw who were in need. Anyone - and everyone - is our brother and sister. (A “man” fell among robbers in Jesus’ story and was left half dead. Jesus doesn’t specify if he was a Jew or a Gentile, old or young, a local person or a foreigner or a refugee. He was simply a person in need.)
Verse 15 (above) seems to be very timely for us today. “If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” (Galatians 5:15) This is another example of why you and I need to be reading the Bible regularly. There is wisdom - Divine wisdom - that applies to our lives today. Often, in churches like ours that follow a lectionary, we hear something in Scripture at precisely the right time! Are we concerned with loving one another, or devouring one another?
I remember a song from my high school Episcopal youth group days:
Love, love, love, love
The Gospel in one word is love
Love your neighbor as your brother [we would include sister now]
Love, love, love.
This is a very reliable test, when trying to discern if we are following in Jesus’ steps. Is the action I am taking loving? If it’s not... if I’m only concerned about my group... if I’m trying to keep someone out, while elevating my own rights, standing, and privileges above those of others... then I need to repent, go back to square one, and start again... asking (once again) for our Lord’s grace in helping me to love - as Christ loves us.
You have been set free by Christ to love. Perhaps the Gospel is as simple as that.
How will you step out in love today? Who will you choose to love? Where, for that matter, will you receive love? On this day, how will you grow in your capacity to love and receive love?