ESSAY-LIKE SUNDAY MORNING: Today’s lesson was skillfully taught by Sister Johnson. The lesson was entitled, “CELEBRATE FREEDOM”. It continues our exploration under UNIT III entitled, “THE BIRTHING OF A NEW COMMUNITY” which examines the issues confronting the early Christian Community.
The Scripture was from Galatians 5:1-17. The KEY VERSE was verse 13 which reads, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love (NIV). SERVE ONE ANOTHER! This is a very important and impactful statement.
When we were children, some of us couldn’t wait to graduate high school and become independent—FREE! We thought we knew all that we needed to know to succeed in the world. Our parents may have tried to warn us that, “it’s not what you think, there are still rules and regulations to follow. There are still obligations to fulfill”.
But, instead of receiving gratitude for their advice, our parents heard this, “Aw Mom! Aw Dad! Ya’ll OLD! Ya’ll don’t know how things are now. It ain’t like that no more. Things have changed. I’m going to do what I want to, when I want to!” some of us proclaimed this to our parents—and anyone else within earshot.
Then, when the proverbial RUBBER met the proverbial ROAD with a resounding “SCREEEEEEEEECH!” it was; Oh, oh! “Mom! Dad! Help!”. Finding that there were still rules to face and people to answer to.
My sons were/are no different. I won’t call them out, but they know who they are!
So it was with the early Christians and so it is with us today. Christ came and freed us from the “YOKE/SLAVERY” of the OLD law/covenant. However, He still requires us to function under the “laws” of LOVE, GRACE and MERCY. Those tenants are what His “YOKE” is made from, but He promises you that His “YOKE” is LIGHT or EASY.
In today’s lesson, Paul had seen that SOME of the people of the early Christian community in Galatia, had started to slide back into the ways of the OLD law/covenant. They were being urged to do so by “JUDAIZERS” or preachers and teachers who insisted that the OLD laws still had to be followed. The lesson mentions CIRCUMCISION but circumcision is a representation of the ENTIRE OLD law/covenant.
I say CIRCUMCISION is used as a PROXY or representative for the ENTIRE OLD law because, who, in current times, would actually expect someone to prove their CHRISTIANITY by being CIRCUMCISED? How would it be accomplished? Would all men have to walk about with their flies unzipped? “Oh, look at that guy, he’s CIRCUMCISED, he’s got to be a good Christian”. No! of course not. Who would do that?
And what about the women? They don’t get CIRCUMCISED so how would they prove their CHRISTIANITY?
So how do we show our CHRISTIANITY?
Instead, Paul is saying that, we don’t need to go back to the OLD ways to be Christians. The OLD laws were fulfilled by Jesus’ coming and His selfless sacrifice.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them (NIV)”. Does that mean that we are still under the OLD law, after all, Jesus Himself said he didn’t come to abolish those laws, instead he came to FULFILL THEM?
So, I posit you this question: What do you do when you FULFILL an OBLIGATION? Do you keep it around for “OLD TIMES SAKE”? Is it a KEEPSAKE? NO! You are done with it. You forget about it and move on to new obligations and tasks.
That, in essence, is what Paul is saying to the early Christians. He’s saying, don’t let those OLD teachers, Peter and James the brother of Jesus, mislead you.
Don’t be taken aback by those names, Peter, founder of the CHURCH, and James, Jesus’ own brother, were the one’s teaching these early Christians that they should continue to practice the OLD ways, despite the fact that Jesus’ sacrifice had set them FREE from the OLD YOKE/SLAVERY of the OLD LAW!
Now, in our Bible, we read the teachings of James and of Peter. They were wise and righteous men, BUT we have to realize that these men, and Paul too, were Jews FIRST. Their fathers, and their father’s fathers, and their father’s, father’s fathers, had all practiced CIRCUMCISION/OLD LAWS, for thousands of years. OLD HABITS ARE HARD TO BREAK!
There’s a HUGE lesson in that last statement for ALL of us. We all know that the Bible teaches us to beware of FALSE PROPHETS. But, the lesson here is that NOT ALL FALSE PROFITS ARE EVIL MEN/WOMEN. Some are just MISGUIDED, MISLEAD, etc.
That’s why we should ALWAYS study the Bible for ourselves, FOR someone may come, preaching and teaching earnestly, and sincerely and yet, be preaching FALSE DOCTRINE. Studying serves as our shield against FALSE TEACHINGS. READING IS FUNDAMENTAL.
Verse 13 says, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in Love.” And then verse 13 says, “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (NIV).
In the military, we have an acronym; “K.I.S.S.” This acronym stands for “Keep It Simple Stupid”. I know, it sounds crass, but the meaning is not crass. It just means that the simpler the better. The OLD law/covenant is a complex set of documents with hundreds of laws. Did you know that it says that we can’t have catfish, cheese grits, pork and beans, and biscuits for our Friday lunch? Some people would DIE if they had to obey that law!
But, Jesus’ YOKE/law is EASY; “For My YOKE is EASY, My BURDEN is LIGHT/SIMPLE (Matthew 11:30).
He stated this law when the Pharisees/Lawyers, politely and respectfully put this challenge to Him: “Rabboni”, showing fake respect by calling him; master—teacher, “What is the GREATEST of the Commandments?” You see, they’d debated this question amongst themselves and the philosophers many times, but couldn’t agree on the answer. But, Jesus easily fielded their query by saying: “The GREATEST Commandment is to LOVE GOD with all of your heart, soul, and mind”.
THEN, to put icing on the cake, He gave them the second GREATEST Commandment too: “And the second GREATEST commandment is like the first one, LOVE your NEIGHBOR as YOURSELF. Upon these two laws, hang all the words and laws of all of the prophets”. Talking about all in one, or rather all in two…how can you beat that? It’s like having the CLIFFsNOTES for living a righteous life!
FOLLOWING THOSE COMMANDMENTS IS ALL YOU HAVE TO DO, TO SHOW YOU ARE A GOOD CHRISTIAN! SIMPLE!
But, in closing, I want to add just one little caveat JUST FOR ME. If you gonna LOVE ME—LOVE YOURSELF FIRST! Because, if you going to LOVE ME like YOU LOVE YOURSELF like JESUS said, I want to make darn sure you REALLY, REALLY LOVE YOURSELF