June 18, 2021
Proclaim Freedom throughout the Land
June 18, 2021
Freedom is a fine Biblical word, and approaching July 4, we remember that a Bible verse about freedom is engraved inside our Liberty Bell, Leviticus 25:10b. Galatians 5 begins with another verse we hear often: “For freedom Christ has set us free.” Paul is urging the church at Galatia to live in the freedom Christ has given, which begins with knowing that the law is not what justifies us. Paul knows the importance of the law in the history of God’s interaction with the people, but he says that thinking you can justify yourself by trying “to obey the entire law” is futile and cuts you off from Christ’s grace.
Some parts of Moses’ law are easily seen as outdated; food regulations for ancient nomadic tribes, for example, who had no sure way to raise healthy pigs or find safe shellfish in unfamiliar territory. But Paul questions a timeless issue at the heart of Jewish identity: circumcision. Whether converts had to be circumcised to belong to the church was an intense controversy, one that nearly split the church at this early time.
We can imagine the forceful arguments: “How dare Paul suggest that circumcision is not important in deciding who does not belong in our community. Circumcision has been our way from the beginning.” And the opponents could quote the Torah as far back as Genesis 17:14: “Any uncircumcised male . . . shall be cut off from his people.”
After wrestling with his own past and strict beliefs, Paul concludes: “In Christ Jesus. . . the only thing that counts is faith working through love” (v. 6). No other criteria need be considered for inclusion in Christ’s beloved community. For assurance Paul relies on Jesus’ own teaching that the whole law is encompassed in love of God and love of neighbor – Luke 10:26-28. “Do this and you will live.”
QUESTIONS FOR THE FIELD
- How do people know we are Christians?
- Why did Jesus question certain laws, such as the law of retribution and the prohibition of gathering grain for food on the Sabbath?
- What issues cause the most conflict in churches today? Can we find a new way—Jesus’ way—to look at each of them?
FAMILY FIELD TALK
- What do we mean by saying we have “faith in God”? How does faith work “through love”?
- What did Jesus say was the greatest commandment? (Luke 10:27)
- What was Jesus’ new commandment? (John 13:34)
Jesus, united by Thy grace,
And each to each endeared,
With confidence we seek Thy face
And know our prayer is heard.
Still let us own our common Lord,
And bear Thine easy yoke,
A band of love, a threefold cord,
Which never can be broke.
Yet, when the fullest joy is given,
The same delight we prove,
In earth, in paradise, in heaven,
Our all in all is love. Amen. (Charles Wesley, 1742)