Sunday, June 27, 2010

Free Life

Galatians 5:1 Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.

Anything at all? Some people would say yes. At one time I would have been one of those. I didn’t think anyone could tell me what to do, ever. Then I went to school, and then to work, and then to the U.S. Army, and then I found Linda and she agreed to spend the rest of her life with me, and then we had children, and then and then and then.

Even with all those and then’s I still think I’m free. It’s all in our perceptions of freedom. What Paul is talking about in his letter to the Galatians is being free from the Law with all its jots and tittles. Former leaders of the church in Galatia came in after Paul left and said that in order to be Christian, a follower of the Way, they had to abide by the old Jewish rules. You know washing, circumcision, eating kosher foods, etc. Paul told them they were free from all those former restrictions but to be careful. They weren’t free to do whatever they wanted or they might destroy their freedom. So, were they really free?

Paul came back to what Jesus answered when he was asked what the most important commandments were. He said, “…Love others as you love yourself.” Sounds easy, doesn’t it.

The problem is we know it’s not so easy to love others. We can love some people some of the time and maybe, some of the time we might find it in our hearts to love all people. But we find it extremely difficult to love everyone all the time.

I don’t think there are many people who are truly free like Paul talks about. How many people do you know who are “living freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit? I know a few who succeed sometimes. But they are human and just like me they fall back into their old habits.

I think our problem is that we want to be in control. We think that’s what it means to be free. We want to make the decisions who we’re going to help, who we’re going to befriend, who we’re going to give food and money to. We want to free to choose and I think that’s our problem. We aren’t really trying it God’s way.

Just think what this community would be like if we did what Paul suggested. What would it be like if we acknowledged the gifts God brought into our lives, things like “affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity? What would it be like to develop a willingness to stick with things, to have a sense of compassion in our hearts, and such a conviction that there was a basic holiness throughout all things and people? Paul thinks that if we really try it God’s way that we would find ourselves in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Wow! What kind of life would that be? What kind of freedom would we experience?

I think that if we would put our focus on the things to do rather than the things not to do we would soon find that the things of the world no longer hold an important place in our hearts. That’s what I think. I think it’s worth trying.

Friends, this is really important stuff. Really important stuff! It’s so important that I believe we shouldn’t wait to repent, to change how we’re living. Really, why are we waiting? What’s the harm in trying to love others as much as we love ourselves? It’s certainly not going to hurt anything to give it a try. If people turn their backs on us then remember what Jesus told the twelve when he sent them out, “If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them. Mk 6:11”

We can only do what God allows us to do. God doesn’t force his will upon us and we can’t force our will upon those we minister to either.

Have you ever wondered whether you’re making any difference in the world when you tell others how God has made your life so much more free? Have you ever been frustrated by how no one seems to be changing? Have you ever wondered why God still asks us to tell our stories? Is anyone listening?

I only ask these questions because they pop up in my mind every so often. But then I remember that it’s not important what I think it’s all about what God is calling me to do. I’m not in control, God is. When I realize that then I’m free. My burdens and worries are gone. All I have to remember is to love others as much as I love myself.

We each have been given gifts of the Spirit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. None of us have received all of them but we have been given the ones that complement the work God has given us to do.

You say you don’t know what gift you’ve received. Go home and ask your spouse or your friends what your gifts are, they know. Listen to them and work to cultivate those particular gifts in loving others in the only way you possibly can as a child of God.

Remember what Paul said, “25 Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.” That means we shouldn’t just nod our heads in agreement when we hear the Word of God but we should take it to heart and change our lives to love others as we love ourselves.

Let’s try it this week. Let’s see if we can change ourselves and our world. Let’s see if we can’t live our lives more freely, animated and motivated by God’s love for us.

Thanks be to God for his amazing grace. Amen.

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