Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Everyone wants to be free. St. Paul is telling us that Christ has freed us from a life that is based on rules to a life of freedom. But it is not a freedom to do whatever we want. It is a freedom to love one another as much as we love ourselves.
For example, living a life based on rules in a marriage means we split all the work and all the resources we have 50/50. But there are times when one or the other of the marriage partners are sick and then the work level might become 80/20. Or, if one of the marriage partners receives a financial bonus on the job or receives a sizable inheritance. That is the time when the couple shares 100% of the joy of their newfound wealth.
Freedom is a tricky thing. I remember when I joined the volunteer fire department in my first congregation. I got a red light to put on the roof of my car and had a siren installed under the hood. The first time I was called to go on an auto wreck call, I put the red light on the roof and had the siren wailing as I drove down the highway. I decided to find out just how fast my car could go. And then it struck me – I was driving faster than I could control the car and if I did not slow down I was in danger of causing a second accident. My position as a member of the Department gave me freedom, but I was misusing my freedom to see how fast my car could go down the highway.
Yes, Christ has freed us from rules, but we are freed to live a new way. St. Paul advises us to live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then we won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of self interest in us that is at odds with a freed spirit just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are direct opposites, so that you cannot live at times one way at times another way according to how you feel on a given day.
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: it is loveless, filled with cheap sex, a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; fake show of religion, paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition, all-consuming yet never satisfied wants; a brutal temper; inability to love or to be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of loving things and using people. Such kind of behavior will never inherit the Kingdom of God.
There is an awesome difference between slavery and servanthood.
I know a couple who lives in another city who discovered after they were married that the husband needed a liver transplant. His new wife discovered she was a match, and so out of love for her husband she donated one of her healthy kidneys to her new husband. That was over twenty years ago, and they are still a happy life-giving couple.
There is another very important part of servanthood. Jesus makes it clear that you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Let’s look closely at what that means. All humans are children of God. But how they are treated by their parents and other members of their family makes a powerful mark on their self-image. If they are told they are worthless and are misused by the family, they grow up feeling they were worthless. Certainly, Jesus does not want us to show that kind of loathing to others. Remember, God does not make junk. Every one of us is a child of God made in God’s image. You are a deeply loved member of God’s creation. Allow that kind of love to flow through you. Then loving your neighbor as yourself will become a life-giving gift.
Everything in life can be identified by what is the fruit of the behavior. St. Paul tells us what fruit comes from being freed to love your neighbor as yourself.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Over time Christ can help all his followers grow in these gifts as they reap the reward of being given love just because they are. Then it is possible to move from slavery to freedom. Thanks be to God. Amen.