Throughout July I have been preaching a sermon series and leading a Bible Study on Paul's Letter to the Galatians. It has been a helpful exercise to lead the congregation through this kind of biblical journey.
Below is what I wrote for our July Newsletter about the nature of Christian freedom, picking up on Paul's definition of freedom in Galatians.
As Americans we love to celebrate Independence Day. It is a time to affirm Jefferson's famous "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Despite the imperfections of our political system, we enjoy tremendous freedom. The American experience has been an "experiment," but it has also been a journey: a journey toward realizing the promise of freedom.
And yet, we are reminded as Christians that we must be careful not to define the freedoms we enjoy as simply "freedom to" or "freedom from," but to understand that the real test is how we will use our freedom to serve others. Paul's caution to the Galatians is worth noting: we are most free when we surrender to Christ, and when we use our freedom to benefit others (5:13). It is a paradox, to be sure, and one worthy examining: we must take care not to confuse liberty for license (5:19). Instead, we must understand that with freedom comes responsibility. To see freedom as something we can use without limits or boundaries can lead to our destruction. History is littered with the remains of such a notion. Without string, the kite flies away. The same with freedom: freedom can go off in all kinds of directions unless it is grounded, that is, unless it is grounded in Christ.
The political and personal freedoms we celebrate remind us that our freedom needs grounding. It needs to remember that there is a cost, and that the cost is very high, indeed, extremely high. It needs to remember that unless freedom is tied to service for others it remains empty and without promise, indeed, it is without Christ.
"For freedom Christ has set us free..."