First Glance: Galatians 5

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You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. (Galatians 5:13-15)

We live in a culture where this passage does not make sense. Our culture loves words like freedom, but they define that freedom very differently than God. The world around us tells us that freedom means we can do whatever we want; freedom is about making yourself happy. Freedom means that if I am not happy or satisfied in a relationship, it was just not meant to be, and I should seek out something new. Freedom means I can and am encouraged to “indulge the flesh”. Freedom is all about eros (romantic love) and not at all about agape (God’s love).

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. (Galatians 5:19-21a)

When Paul speaks to us about freedom he speaks of a very different freedom than our culture does. He speaks of freedom in Christ. Earlier Paul writes, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1a). We are free in Christ, and this freedom has a particular shape. Freedom in Christ is about serving one another humbly in love. It’s not about ourselves and what we want. It’s about loving one another, as Christ first loved us. Freedom is about sacrificing oneself for the sake of another. The fruit of that freedom looks much different. Rather than hatred, disunity, jealousy, and selfish ambition, we see joy, peace, kindness, and self-control.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a)

Worldly freedom claims to bring you happiness, but I can’t help but wonder if there are any seeking that type of freedom are truly happy. From my own observations, I think not. I have only seen it lead to hurt and misery. Christ’s freedom, on the other hand, is different. It may seem more restrictive, but it isn’t. It is a freedom that brings life and true joy.

What kind of freedom do you long for?

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