By the grace of God, nobody is following me around the office with a pen, capturing the fruit of my thick tongue.
I expect badly formed sentences anyone who has microphone stuck in front of his or her face for any length of time. It's inevitable. But I don't expect to see an apparent clunker of a sentence in the inspired word of God. But there is was, staring at me in Galatians 5:1...
"It was for freedom that Christ set us free."
Yeah, Paul, and "the key to good teaching is teachers."
Paul's not big on circular reasoning. There had to be good reason for him to drop this looping tautology on his readers. I suspect Paul hit the point of exasperation and willing to risk insulting the intelligence of his readers. The Galatians were willing to set trade in freedom in Christ for the opportunity to embrace ceremonial laws of the neighboring Jews. Paul, being a Jew, was baffled-- the Jews weren't even able to keep these rules, so why would the Gentiles sign on to their ethical program?
My friend David and I were wrestling with this issue over coffee, trying to get some clarity; How could we know if we were using our freedom in Christ well. We looked at Peter and Paul's debate just a few chapters earlier.
Peter insisted that the Gentile's convert to Judaism before they could be welcomed into Christian fellowship. His brand of spirituality:
--equated adhering to religious heritage with following God;
--used traditions as the template to measure who could or who could not be considered part of the New Humanity.
In short, Peter advocated that the Galatians were free to trade one set of religious rules for another; not abundant life but abundant lists.
Paul on the other hand, spells out freedom in a far less concrete manner:
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Freedom in Christ then, is freedom from lists, rules, and the never ending spate of principles that pastors offer instead of the Gospel. Paul is offering us the freedom to read our surroundings, to read our Scripture, to be led by the Holy Spirit and to take our best stab at what a loving response might be in the moment.
We are free to create love.