Proper 8 • Galatians 5:1, 13–25 • June 30, 2013
By Bruce Hartung
Review some of the times in the New Testament that eleutherou is used in addition to Galatians 5. These include John 8:31b–32, “If you remain in my world you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”; Romans 6:18, “Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness”; Romans 6:22, “But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit that you have leads to sanctification, and its end is eternal life”; and Romans 8:2, “For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death.”
Review some of the times in the New Testament that eleutheria is used in addition to its use in Galatians 5:1 and 13 (twice). These include 2 Corinthians 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”; and 1 Peter 2:16, “Be free. Yet without using freedom as a pretext for evil, but as slaves of God.”
Read Martin Luther’s On the Freedom of a Christian, available on-line at places such as www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/luther-freedomchristian.asp. Major themes for Luther include: “I first lay down these two propositions, concerning spiritual liberty and servitude. A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone” (10). “True then are these two sayings: Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works. Bad works do not make a bad man, but a bad man does bad works” (23). “We conclude therefore that a Christian man does not live in himself, but in Christ, and in his neighbor, or else is no Christian; in Christ by faith, in his neighbor by love. By faith he is carried upwards above himself to God, and by love he sinks back below himself to his neighbor, still always abiding in God and His love” (32). It is useful, helpful, and important to read the whole work.
Return to the text, Galatians 5:1, 13–25. Could this be your theme?: “For freedom Christ has set us free . . . For you were called to freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal 5:1a, 13–14). Indeed, freed by the gracious and loving action of Christ from the tyranny of pleasing God with our works and trying to earn salvation, we are called to use our energy and our lives not in an exercise of self-gratification but rather in service and love to each other. This is truly what freedom in the gospel and service to the sister and brother in Christ is all about.
Consider the conflicts in your life and those of your hearers that have to do with the freedom/service or self-pleasure/love of other polarities. For instance, I am freed from using my money to buy my way into heaven by giving to the church. For what then do I use money? To gratify myself? Is my freedom rather to use my money to love and serve others? For instance, I am freed from the terrors of my conscience by the forgiveness given by Christ. For what then do I use my sense of peace and my clean slate? To do what I wish in the satisfaction of my own desires? Is my freedom rather to use my peace and clean slate by serving and loving others? Find some things in your life that can be shared that illustrates this principle.
Suggested Sermon Direction
When I was 14, I began to count down the days until I could get my driver’s license. The countdown began at day 830. Day by day I checked off time. Day by day I dreamed of the freedom I would have when I could drive: dates without parents taxiing us around; buddies speeding along together competitively; going where I wanted to go unencumbered by adults. The day arrived. Three days later I had my license. Two weeks later, while at the football field with my parent’s car I gunned the engine (in my freedom) and threw a rod. It took two years of working at the old Hyattsville Hardware store to pay that off. Freedom came; its misuse was costly.
What do you do with your freedom? What do I do with mine? Christ has freed us from the burden of our sin, from our earning God’s love, from our pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps to approach God. With all that energy, no longer needed to earn a new and healthy relationship with God, what do I do with it? What do you do with it?
You and I could go after our own desires. (See Galatians 5:17–21.) Go for it! We are free! Just do it! Don’t let anyone tell you what to do. I am the master of my own ship, my own fate. We live in the land of the free, so don’t tread on me. I have rights. Keep off my property! If you don’t do it the way that I want I’ll leave, because I have freedom.
You and I could go after the fruit of the Spirit. (See Galatians 5:22–25.) Go for it! We are free! Just do it! Love God, serve the neighbor. Give at least some of your money to the poor. Listen closely to those with whom we disagree, so closely that we can really understand why their position is so important to them. Take some time to find out about the person who sits down the pew from you. Begin, or continue, praying for others. Invite your neighbors over for food and talk. Engage those with whom you work in the name of Christ who set all of us free.
So what will you do with your energy, your passion, your freedom in the gospel?
This might be a good time for those who are listening to your sermon to become more active in it. Can you ask people to share what they will do with their freedom? Can they text their ideas to a screen or write them on a piece of paper and turn it in? In prayer you can bless all this energy born of the freedom in Christ.
All in all, we are subject to none and subject to everyone. This is because the Christ became one with us and became subject to human flesh, form, and experience and in his life, death, and resurrection he brings us the freedom of a new and healthy relationship with God.