“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
There is a phrase bandied about – “Freedom is never free” – which is taken to mean that our freedoms in society (our western/American society) are won at a cost; and that cost is the lives of men and women who have struggled against an enemy that seeks to limit or take away our freedom. And I have always been puzzled by that ideology – being a non-resistant Anabaptist from little on up. And I am lead to ask, what the definition of “freedom” is in that phrase?
“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. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Verses 13 – 14)
Paul would tell us that of course our “freedom” is not free; the cost, he would say, was the death of Jesus the Christ. But praise be to the Lord God (he would continue) Jesus rose from the dead and freed us from the dominion of sin! And he does say (above) that our response should be loving one another as Jesus Christ modeled love, and loving others as we would want to be treated. And he warns too against “false” freedom, that is actually the way to sin.
“If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.” (Verses 15 – 17)
Now, as this same God-fearing non-resistant Anabaptist I have to be puzzled at what is meant by the “desires of the flesh”. Growing up with the theme of being moderate and modest in all things, and not being part of the world, I lived in fear that I would sin inadvertently and be condemned utterly. In fact I can remember some where in the middle of grade school living in fear of sinning. But one day I realized that I may not be as sinful as I feared (after hearing much greater sins than I had EVER heard of); and maybe, just maybe I was redeemable after all!
“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.” (Verse 18)
So I knew if I put my mind to it, and stayed humble and modest, I would not be lead too badly to sin – I hoped!
“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Verses 19 – 21)
Oh beloved reader! You cannot imagine (maybe you can) the scrutiny I made of my life making sure I did not do those things – half of which I was not even sure what is was or how one would accomplish such travesties!
“By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” (Verses 22 – 23)
What no one told me (but I figured out for myself) was that once the Holy Spirit is in your life, the desire for such things and the fear of such things fades away. It was the fear of sinning that caused me the most consternation. Such a blessing it was to realize that I was free! That fear could not and should not rule my life. And I discovered once I felt that freedom it was very easy to live out the fruits of the Spirit!
“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” (Verses 24 – 25)
In the days of Ordinary Time we may forget the gifts and blessing that the Divine has bestowed on us. We may forget the lessons and teaching that came during the commemorative days of the church year. There is as much danger of living in fear of sin and recriminations during Ordinary Times as there is of going astray. Remember, beloved reader, the Holy Spirit of the Divine is as much with us during Ordinary Time as with the Holy Days of the church year.
May the time between now and the beginning of the new church year be filled with blessings and love from the Lord God! Selah!