|Dan & Linda, at a Starbuck's in Istanbul|
Linda and I are sitting in Starbuck's in Ann Arbor. She's reading a book, and I'm prayer-working on this Sunday's message. It's on Galatians 5:1-6. I love the Message's interpretation of this. (Eugene Peterson' The Message functions like a commentary; Peterson is a great biblical scholar.)
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.
2-3I am emphatic about this. The moment any one of you submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ's hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. I repeat my warning: The person who accepts the ways of circumcision trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law. 4-6I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.
Paul's view of "freedom" is comprehensive. Borrowing from Scot McKnight...
Freedom is a reality brought about in and through the Christ-event (the Cross).
- It has broken the power of sin and neutralized the individual hostility against God.
- It has covered the stain of sin and erased the past.
- It has crushed all enslavement to self, to religious convention, to the present powers of evil, and to cosmic forces.
- It has triumphed over every force that dominates humankind, including human mortality itself.
Every Jesus-follower is now free to obey God in a radical fashion by serving his fellow human beings in selfless love. We'll look at this kind of stuff and more on Sunday.