For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. - Galatians 5:1
There are a whole lot of things that we typically associate with slavery. We think of oppressive relationships. We think of economic systems. We think of exploitation. Surely, the apostle Paul would have us stand against things like this. But in this passage, that isn’t what he is talking about. In this passage, he is talking about the Bible… or rather, how people he knew were misusing the Bible.
When Paul wrote this text, certain people tried to convince other Christians they needed to obey the rules in the Bible perfectly. Their basic idea was that if you are good enough, God would approve. If you didn’t follow the rules, God wouldn’t approve.
Now, Paul hated this line of thinking. He felt it cuts people off from the grace of Jesus. He equated living in a way that relies upon our own effort to slavery. Jesus came to free us from that slavery!
Paul wants us to live from our relationship with God instead. He writes, “For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.” Perhaps living in faith and hope in the Holy Spirit is even more important than being good all of the time. Even if someone could perfectly follow the rules, it would be like having a son or daughter who learned to live perfectly from a book or list of rules. They might put together a great resume, but their Heavenly Father would miss the opportunity to intimately be part of it all.
The best way to learn to live for God is in relationship. We pray and read the Scripture to learn to love like God loves. As we experience God’s Presence and grace, we are shaped by that love. In this text, Paul will eventually say that this is the way that the rules get obeyed in the way they were meant to be obeyed.
So, if your inability to toe the line keeps you from prayer. If you have guilt or shame that you just can’t shake. If you can’t seem to quite pull off being a good Christian, relax. Jesus has set you free from those things. Use that freedom to love God and be loved by him. That is really the only way to grow in the character and depth of your heavenly Father any way.
Dear Jesus, thank you that this Christian way is a way that leans into you. Thank you that you forgive and pick me up as readily as I need. Thank you that you love me. Please shape me by that love so I might live fully the freedom you give me. In Jesus’ name, amen.