Galatians 5:1, 13-25 (NRSV)
Chapter 5For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Verse 13For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. Verse 14For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Verse 15If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. Verse 16Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. Verse 17For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. Verse 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Verse 19Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, Verse 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, Verse 21envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Verse 22By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, Verse 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. Verse 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Verse 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
“…with liberty and justice for all.” Perhaps, anticipating Independence Day, we think of these words. This point in our history is challenging us to ask: What is liberty, really? One image is off-road vehicles, leaving the prescribed path, going anywhere the individual wants. Another image is the vast super-market, with choices challenging our ability to make informed decisions. For sure, freedom for the individual includes freedom of thought and expression. Yet what are the guard-rails necessary for existence that is peaceful, that allows mutual liberty and justice—for all?
Saint Paul contrasts works and fruit. Efforts from self-focus lead to personal and corporate behaviors that are deadly. In contrast, we can look to Jesus who freely took personal action, which brought eternal benefit for all. When we submit ourselves to be led by the Spirit of Jesus, we receive attitudes that build up each of us and all of us—together.
Loving God, help me trust that obedience to Jesus is the source of true freedom. Give me grace so that, in spiritual needs and in material needs, I will work for that same freedom to be enjoyed by all. Amen.