Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we are concluding our short series of sermons on the biblical book of Galatians. Last week we were considering the topic of “Faith and Fear.” Our sermon from the day can be found here. Following the nations celebration of Independence Day, this coming Sunday we take a look at the theme of “Faith and Freedom” that Paul talks about in Galatians 5:1 &13-25.
Paul had spoken to the Galatian church about the unlimited, unmerited grace of God towards people. Jesus Christ freely gave His life as an act of sacrifice, to demolish any barriers that could prevent people from being in a heart relationship with God.
Paul is concerned that some people in the church had taken things much too far. They interpreted the freedom they had found in Christ as meaning they were free to live however they pleased. What did it matter what a person did? God would forgive them. Rather like that “Get of jail free” card in a game of Monopoly, self-indulgence was no longer an issue. Some even went as far as suggesting that the more you sinned, the more you could experience God's forgiving love. A win-win situation for “do whatever please you” living!
In verse 13 Paul cautions them, “You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love, be servants of each other.” He points out that if they focused only on personal passion, peoples hearts would deceive them and they would end up destroying each other.
Such was not the way that the Holy Spirit guided people. “By contrast,” Paul tells them, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” The Holy Spirit was the Spirit of Jesus who directed people in ways that imitated the works and words of the Savior, not the ways of a conflicted and self consuming society. Yes, Jesus set people fee, but free to serve, not to destroy!
As a nation celebrates freedom, it is worth pausing to reflect that freedom can be both a disabling and an enabling thing. If we express our freedoms in ways that deny others their own freedoms, then we are not walking the way of Jesus. Freedom of speech does not mean we should feel free to speak in a way that harms or belittles others. Freedom of expression does not mean that we should be accepting of expressions of hatred or prejudice. Tolerance does not mean that anything goes.
When musicians play “Free-Jazz” music, they recognize that there are boundaries that have to be observed. If somebody walks into a jam session with a Tuba and begins playing “Old McDonald had a farm” over and over and over and over again, then every other players freedom is destroyed. Tubas are great instruments. “Old McDonald” is a children's classic. But freedom only works where respect, understanding and boundaries are in place.
Such is the nature of freedom that the Holy Spirit seeks to bring to our church communities. Freedom to serve God, to serve each other and be vessels for the healing grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This short video titled “Free to Serve” offers a short meditation on Galatians 5:13.
If you are in the Mount Hebron area, we meet at 10:00 a.m. around a table laid with bread and wine to celebrate the freedom Christ died to give to us. Feel free to join us :-)
The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.