Galatians 5:1, 13-25
For Sunday, June 26, 2016
Never have we been so free as we are in the Secular West. So then why aren’t we enjoying it? Galatians 5 provides an explanation.
I just returned from an amazing week at Acton University with 1,100 other adult learners from 51 countries to learn about faith, liberty and economics. The most moving part of the week for me was hearing Father Sirico during the final plenary session share about how as a five year old growing up in Brooklyn in the 1950’s, he noticed numbers on his Jewish neighbor’s arm and asked his Mom what they meant. His Mom explained that just as cowboys brand cattle so some people thought they could brand other people to designate those others their property. This experience became among Father Sirocco’s first inklings that we as human beings are profoundly different than animals.
Lord Acton, the Acton Institute’s namesake, said this about freedom: “True freedom is not the ability to do whatever we want, but rather having the power to do what we ought” (paraphrased).” This is precisely what the Apostle Paul addresses with the Galatians in chapter 5 of his letter to them.
“For 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” (v. 13). “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, …” (v. 19). “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,gentleness, and self-control” (vv. 22-23)”. “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (v. 1).
As Francis Bacon understood so well in “Head VI”, the painting above, we in the West are free to do whatever we want (including now even choosing our own gender). Yet we’ve lost our minds in the process. Only in turning back to God will we start to identify with what we ought to do as well as find the power to do it.
Think about the people in your sphere of influence. Are they enjoying their freedom? Really? How about you yourself? It’s a revealing question, but it can be one of the most liberating ones you could ever ask yourself. May the Spirit of liberty lead us forward in both grace and truth.