Friday, January 18, 2013

Which way do I go?

Galatians 4:21-31

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written,
“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
    break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
    than those of the one who has a husband.”
Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.”  So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.

I think that to understand what this passage is about, we have to look at who Paul was just talking about. He is warning the Galatians about those who would steal their joy by subjecting them to the requirements of the law all over again. He is talking about people who make much of themselves, who put themselves up in places of honor, much like the Pharisees did, while placing large burdens on their followers. Notice that I said their followers, not their fellow followers of Christ.

Paul gives an illustration from the Old Testament to prove his point.He begins by asking them if they follow the law. Are they in complete compliance? Because if you rely on the law, you must rely on the law alone. And through his illustration, Paul shows that the law leads to bondage. But freedom comes through the promise, and the promise if from God.

Look at the burdens that are placed on their followers. They preach the tithe, and some buy into it. But if the tithe they give is an obligation, if it is done out of an attempt to appease God and have Him look more favorably on you, rather than your response of the joy of your salvation, then all it is is a burden. God loves a cheerful giver, not an obligated one.

Or look at special service projects. One church I know spent one week encouraging people to serve in the community. They gave out t-shirts, and had people report on all of the ways that they had worked during that week. Then they could sit back and feel good about all they had done. But one week out of 52 isn't even a tithe of your time.

I could go on, but the point of the passage, I believe, is freedom, joy, and a response to God that is based on freedom and not obligation. It is not about what we do, but what God has done. And this plan that God had, was not based on an obligation to us. We have no hold over Him that could ever cause him to be obligated to us. No, it was based on His love and mercy. So it makes sense that what He wants in return is not a moral obligation to give Him a portion of what He so freely gave us, but rather a response of love as well.

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