Summary: As we move ever closer to the idea of freedom, we must confront the reality that the coin of freedom has two sides: and on the opposite side is responsibility.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

“The Responsibility of Freedom

Text: Galatians 5: 1 – 14

When Nelson Mandela, after 27 years in prison, won the election as President of South Africa, standing in the grand Stadium before hundreds of thousands of his people dancing, shouting, and exuberantly experiencing the moment when he, as the first African President of South Africa, would address the crowd, was asked the question, “the people are expressing their sense of freedom, isn’t that wonderful.” Nelson Mandela answered what you are witnessing are not the people expressing freedom, what you are seeing is simply that the people are loose.”

As we move ever closer to the idea of freedom, we must confront the reality that the coin of freedom has two sides: and on the opposite side is responsibility.

This letter of Paul to the collective churches in Galatia is very germane to our situation within the country, as well as within the church. A close reading of the text points out for us basic responsibilities of freedom:

1. It is God's intention that we are free.

2. It is God's desire that when the yoke of slavery is broken that you not return to that state.

The African story of how to control an elephant begins with the young pup's leg being tied to a large oak tree. As the pup attempts to break free he experiences pain every time he attempts to pull his leg out of the chains that have him tied to the tree. After a point in time, his mind adjusts to the fact that when his leg is attached by a chain to the tree, he is not able to break loose. Therefore, he stays stationary. As the elephant grows and matures and reaches the massive size, we know him to be, the mentality has not changed. Whenever his leg is attached to a mere stake, he still imagines the pain of his youth and does not attempt to pull away. As a result elephants are able to be controlled by tying their leg to a small stake that they easily could pull loose from. However, their mind reverts back to the failed attempts of their youth, and they do not try to pull away from that which could easily be broken.

God's desire for us that once we are freed of bondage that we not return to that state of servitude.

3. It is God's desire for community to be diverse.

Diversity is not a deficiency.

In the text Paul's talks about circumcision and being uncircumcised.

The Palmist in Psalm 84 who exclaims, "I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wickedness.”

The doorkeepers responsibility was not as greeters which we attribute to an usher. Their primarily responsibility was to check that only men who were circumcised were permitted into the temple. This was not a desirable post in those days, but an important post. They would only admit those of like kind. However, Paul's steps onto the scene and makes it known that God is not really interested in a religious tradition, God is interested in one’s spiritual condition.

God doesn't look on the outward appearance; God is always looking on the inward appearance. The condition of one's heart!

In God's community, he is always extending the opportunity to participate in community to whosoever will. It is God's desire that his kingdom is diverse and represents that grand tapestry of God's creation.

4. It is God's desire that we walk be faith and not by sight.

The challenge is we continue to adopt procedures and laws that do violence to the human condition, or do we start from the perspective of how to, we improve the quality of life for all people. If God had held us to the letter of the law, we would all be dead and gone. However, it is only the grace of God that has kept. It is only the grace of God that has sustained us. It is only the Grace of God that saves us. Our journey is a faith journey; our walk is only by faith.

5. Finally, at the root of freedom must be love for your neighbor.

Freedom demands that we do not place man’s law above God’s law.

Jesus deal with this question in Matthew 5, when he pointed out that the law once said, “an eye for an eye”. However, Jesus says that if someone hit you on one cheek, turn the other. If anyone would sue you and take away your coat, also give them your cloak. If you are compelled to walk a mile, walk two miles.

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