Sustain us in the struggle Lord, and raise us to Your life. Amen.
1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
7 You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!
13 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. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
Let’s read that last bit again:
13 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. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
When we hear the word freedom, we probably have several different images pop into our mind. Mel Gibson pops in first as William Wallace, face painted blue, war worn, tied to a table and suffering his last. It is a gasping final breath, a cry for something that mattered most, that was worth dying for, a cause that was meant to bring hope to others.
Then I think of people like Harriet Tubman & Sojourner Truth, people who worked and struggled and did things both stealthy and public to draw attention to the plight of their people, desiring freedom from oppression & slavery. They didn’t care what man’s opinion was on the matter, they did what was right. Dr. King echoed their hearts on the other side of the Emancipation Proclamation, while men and women still struggled for equality because of the color of their skin, and many still echo their cause today, and rightfully so.
I think of Moses standing in the court of Pharaoh, staff in hand, and Charlton Heston’s beard hanging down on his chest demanding that Pharaoh let God’s people go. A power struggle between two men, one who thought himself a god, and another who was on a mission from God. Moses stood representing a people who were oppressed, taken advantage of, beaten down and suffering. Freedom seemed like a pipe dream to them, suffering was their companion.
But God has different plans.
All of these examples of freedom that pop into my head center around people who were willing to stand up to that others might have freedom, and I think that’s only right. People who fight for their own freedom, but neglect the needs of others around them do not understand the true nature of freedom. And this thought is found in this passage from Galatians 5 today. We have been granted a great freedom in Christ, yes. But we cannot, not even for a moment, keep that freedom to ourselves. It is counter-intuitive, truly free people want non-free people to truly be free, and they will point the goals of their life toward that work.
Freedom isn’t an idea. It’s not a rough concept or construct that we work under. Freedom is a state of being, and it shapes everything we have license to do. Paul was pointing this out, too, when he reminded the church in Galatia that their freedom was given so that they might serve others. It isn’t a freedom for self, but a freedom to serve. That’s what freedom is for, freedom is for freeing, and people who are free, and understand their freedom, having engaged with it, will seek freedom for others. They will ‘go’ as Jesus called them to go, bringing freedom to the captives.
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
If this was Jesus’ mission, then it belongs to us, too.
Freedom if for everyone. Free means free.
Go set someone free today.
“17 As the time was drawing near to fulfill the promise that God had made to Abraham, the people flourished and multiplied in Egypt 18 until a different king who did not know Joseph ruled over Egypt. 19 He dealt deceitfully with our race and oppressed our ancestors by making them leave their infants outside, so they wouldn’t survive. 20 At this time Moses was born, and he was beautiful in God’s sight. He was cared for in his father’s home three months, 21 and when he was left outside, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted and raised him as her own son. 22 So Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his speech and actions.
23 As he was approaching the age of 40, he decided to visit his brothers, the Israelites. 24 When he saw one of them being mistreated, he came to his rescue and avenged the oppressed man by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He assumed his brothers would understand that God would give them deliverance through him, but they did not understand. 26 The next day he showed up while they were fighting and tried to reconcile them peacefully, saying, “Men, you are brothers. Why are you mistreating each other?”
27 But the one who was mistreating his neighbor pushed him away, saying:
“Who appointed you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me, the same way you killed the Egyptian yesterday?”
29 At this disclosure, Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he fathered two sons. 30 After 40 years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight. As he was approaching to look at it, the voice of the Lord came: 32 “I am the God of your fathers — the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.” So Moses began to tremble and did not dare to look.
33 Then the Lord said to him:
“Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have observed the oppression of My people in Egypt; I have heard their groaning and have come down to rescue them. And now, come, I will send you to Egypt.”
35 This Moses, whom they rejected when they said, “Who appointed you a ruler and a judge?” — this one God sent as a ruler and a redeemer by means of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out and performed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness 40 years.”
Just like God’s provision of a sacrifice for Abraham pointed toward Christ, so does the people’s treatment of Moses. God uses things to get our attention, different circumstances to help grab our attention and help us to see whatever it is He is doing. In all of His plans and in all of the people He used to redeem & rescue Israel over the years, He was pointing toward something better, something more permanent. He was also using the experiences of the people to show them that they needed Him, that they were in need of a savior.
That’s he funny thing about sin, it blinds us to itself. There is oftem so much justification, so much false reasoning we have cobbled together, that we become blind to the actual issue and wind up seeing more of what we now feel entitled to, what we see as an actibity or a lifestyle that we deserve to live out. So, the darkness closes in and covers over our hearts and minds until our justified and rationalized behaviors become the new ‘normal’ and stand out in front of us as the acceptable alternative for a life ‘well lived.’
Sometimes people who need rescued don’t know they need to be rescued until they realize that they are in their final moments. Again, just like the venom from a snake bite may cause paralysis, and eventually death, we don’t understand the consequences until we begin to fall victim to them, losing the ability to move and get help. Sin is mre like venom, something that works inside, and less like quicksand or some external force. Because usually, sin doesn’t so much swallow us whole all at once as it does enter into our bloodstream from a small entry point, working its way through our system, slowly working it’s disasterous effects on our whole body. You can walk away from quicksand, you can grab a rope and get pulled out. But you cannot run from the venom coursing through your veins. It is inescapable.
And so God showed the people that it wasn’t just slavery that they needed to escape from, but from the internal oppression that had set up shop in their hearts and minds. It wasn’t enough that they should be physically free, their hearts needed to be healed from the ravaging effects of slavery as well. It isn’t uncommon for victims of abuse to see their situation as something that’s acceptable, something they deserve, and so we see the Israelites longing to go back to Egypt just after they were rescued. “We had it so much better there.” they would say, missing the larger more important point. They were still captive in their hearts, and God, thorough His loving provision and care, would show them that they were indeed valuable and that they were indeed loved.
The redemption that God provided through Moses was a physical redemption, and that pointed us toward our need for Jesus who wouldn’t just redeem the physical world, but who also redeems our souls.
As we GoLove people, we need to understand that they won’t see the bigger picture right off the bat. Their life’s work of rationalizing and justifying sin must be undone by the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and minds. It doesn’t change overnight, but as we know, it begins a whole new life’s work to reject the bad and live for righteousness instead. Jesus makes it possible to be made new, but many also reject Him, and so it is going to be a difficult task to convince them of the venom that courses through their veins. Trust the Holy Spirit to do His part, and we should each be faithful in doing our own as we trust in Him.