Last Sunday, we explored the issue of salvation as it pertains to the law and faith. We learned that Paul makes a great distinction between the law, which cannot lead to faithfulness in God, and Faith in Christ that does. We also touched on the nature of a life in Christ that calls us to move in a direction of faithfulness and away from the law. This is based in Paul’s own story and witness of how he used the law to persecute those who were merely trying to be faithful to God.
The ultimate problem that Paul is pointing to is that a life of the law or a journey towards perfection, or even piety in life is one that will ultimately take you down a road which will lead you astray from God. This path happens because the driving force is not what the right thing to do is, but what the legal thing to do is. I am sure many of you have been in meetings and witnessed where people used the governing rules like Roberts Rules of Order to push an agenda. While legal, it’s not always in either the best interest of the organization or for the propagation of a deeper mission.
This week we take the discussion one step deeper, asking the question of how we are set free from the law. Within this freedom, we create a new moral structure that has the essential question of what is God calling us to do. This freedom to explore outside of law comes with a social price, as do all freedoms, that creates a system which is based on searching, question, and exploration rather than hard-and-fast answers or law and order. Though, not surprisingly, a life in Christ does not lead us to a path of nihilism or anarchy, because our life is to be life in response to our faith that is steeped in Christ, which calls us to live to something more.
This “living for something more” is exemplified in the supporting text from Luke that tells the story of the demon-possessed man. This is an interesting story of a unique chance at a second life. After being possessed and known to be possessed (probably a mental illness, but that does not matter for this discussion), the life that this man had to live would be one steeped in ostracism and harassment. After the healing, the man, realizing a new freedom from his possession, turns to Christ and asks to follow him, which Christ turns back, and redirects the man to go home and witness to the miracle. Faithfulness and devotion exampled here is based upon the action of going home, living into a freedom to live life fully.
Like the discussion of law, the directive that came from Christ was not to pursue a life of debauchery now that the possessed man was free, but to live in faithfulness, being a live witness to the work of Christ. The pericope in Galatians also reminds us that freedom from the law, which segregates us, changes us to no longer be separated by gender, ethnicity, or group; since we have been made one with Christ, our freedom calls us to live into a deeper promise of Christ and a more full life.
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Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen