Good Life

Clergy Column: Freedom to love is freedom in Christ

Freedom is something that we as Americans highly value. The Bill of Rights guarantees us the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to practice our religion as we choose, freedom to assemble peacefully, and freedom to live or travel anywhere in the country.

Our government guarantees other freedoms a well: freedom to work at any job for which we qualify, freedom to marry the person of our choice and raise a family, freedom to receive a free education in a public school, and the freedom to join a political party, a union and other legal groups. We take these freedoms seriously, and we protest loudly when we think someone is infringing on our freedoms.

In chapter five of his letter to the Galatians, Paul addresses the theme of freedom in Christ: “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free (in Christ).”

Paul is very aware of the potential hazards of freedom. First, freedom is difficult because it comes with responsibilities and often hard choices.

Second, freedom can destroy a sense of community if we are self-centered rather than community-centered.

Third, we have the freedom to choose between what he calls our sinful nature and the fruits of the spirit. Paul’s list of sins in this passage includes lustful pleasures, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness and wild parties.

Paul understands people. He knows that we all do good, caring things and sometimes we all do hurtful, uncaring things. Let’s look at some examples of doing hurtful, uncaring things. Have you ever talked about a person behind their back?

Do you sometimes share a juicy piece of gossip? Do you focused on a person’s shortcomings rather than the person’s good traits? Do you judge a person on their clothes, skin color, height, sexual orientation, hair style, tattoos? Are you ever jealous or envious of other people? If you answered “yes” or “sometimes” to any of these examples, then you are a sinner.

The good news is that you are in good company; it is a rare person who can truthfully say they do not do anything on this list. The other good news is that God forgives you when you sin.

In contrast to his list of sins, Paul offers a list of the fruit of the spirit. These fruit include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Let’s look at some examples.

Do you volunteer time each week or month to serve others? Do you enjoy making other people smile and laugh?

Do you share a kind word with friends and strangers? Do you encourage a person who is struggling with a crisis or their faith? Have you patiently helped someone learn a skill or to be creative? Do you count your blessings rather than complain? If you answered “yes” or “sometimes I do” to any of these examples, then you are sharing the fruit of the spirit, and you are blessed.

Paul continues, “Use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

You have a choice every day, you can chose freedom in Christ, you can choose love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And when you choose these things, you are choosing abundant life in Jesus Christ.