This summer, I’ve been enjoying taking the smaller books of the Bible and reading them in one sitting. I say smaller because I don’t often have time to sit down and read through one of those hefty narratives all at once and walk away with a trace of wisdom or knowledge. I mean, do you?
In particular, the letters from Paul are fun to read this way because I try to read them as though they were written for me. Going from beginning to end is a cool thing to practice because while studying and picking apart passages is awesome, this gives way to a different perspective.
Today I want to tell you about the letter to the Galatians. Right away in chapter one, you get the sense Paul was fired up. False teachers were luring the Christians in Galatia away from the real gospel with bad information and piles of extra laws, giving them the impression salvation had more to do with what they did and how well they did it than the grace of Christ alone.
I become prey to the same lies when I get caught up trying to keep up with the Jones’ (who are those people anyway?) and trying to meet other people’s expectations in order to have a sense of worth and belonging. Or when I am going a million miles an hour to meet my own ridiculous standards, trying to do everything at 99.9% and failing miserably because I’ve reached capacity. Grace overshadowed by rules, limits, hard work and striving.
The battle to be everything to everyone and the pursuit of perfection according to the gospel of Pinterest, shiny magazines, and the slow death by comparison to others does the very opposite thing Christ died for. We relinquish freedom and become enslaved to the tiny gods and goddesses we place on thrones.
Paul doesn’t even mess around in his greeting to these poor misled folks. There are not a lot of robust words, in fact he doesn’t even give thanks for them like he does with the Romans or even the Corinthians. He is seriously ready to throw down.
He begins by telling them who he is… Paul, an apostle while making it clear he is an apostle not because of any person, but because God saved him and sent him. He wishes them grace and peace, exactly in that order because grace is our unmerited favor with God, the only thing that save us and the only means by which we have peace.
He goes on to remind them, it was Jesus who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age so they and now us, would no longer have to be under a law we could never keep on our own. Nor do we need to be under the oppression of people’s rules and traditions which press us into their image rather than the image of God.
The evil age the Galatians were succumbing to and the present age we find ourselves in, feed our hungry bellies with empty promises of beauty, popularity, riches, immediate gratification, and fulfillment in things that never last. They cause us to take our eyes off the grace of Christ and thrust us into the lie that we can work in order to have peace.
When we look to please others and live up to their standards, we are likely to become enslaved the same way as the Galatians in this present age we find ourselves in.
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10
Galatians is a letter to some people who were stuck and needed to know about freedom. Freedom because Christ has set us free from being enslaved to any other standard, person or thing. Anything but himself. It serves as a reminder to us to check ourselves. Check our iPhones, check our Instagrams and our bank accounts to see what truly captivates us.
I have mixed emotions when I think of the word freedom. I love how it lifts my soul as a Christian but I’m saddened because their are so many people in the world held captive by their circumstances and even quite literally people or governments who have enslaved them.
I’m beginning to learn, freedom according to Galatians has little to do with how we feel in or about our circumstances but rather the perspective we receive when put our trust in God. We are free to walk in the Spirit, free to love others and free from condemnation and guilt from the past and free from fear of the future.
Freedom is simply found in being hemmed in with Jesus. Grace and peace my friends.