Read Galatians 5:1-12
1It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
2Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. 6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
7You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? 8That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9"A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough." 10I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be. 11Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! (NIV)
Paul makes his boldest statement now on what he is trying to say to the Galatians. “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.” Paul is saying that in Christ, we are free from anything that will bind us or enslave us to the point that we are unable to reach heaven. We have been freed of all burdens in this regard. Our faith in Christ alone unlocks the chains that bind us in this world. It is a wonderful image – to be free. This has been a rallying cry for countless people down through history. People have fought and died to be free.
Paul moves in the next section to speak to the ramification of adhering to just a small part of the law. He states that if you follow one part, you are obligated to follow all the law. This is the same for those who come to our country and seek to become citizens. Once they study some of the laws and agree to them, they agree to all the laws we have, not just some. Paul says the law though will fail you in the end and you will be alienated from Christ in trying to do what Christ freed you from doing.
He then points to the only action that matter, faith expressing itself though love. We are to love, not to earn favor, but as a response to the freedom we have been given. We are free to love unconditionally because we are loved unconditionally. We don’t have to worry about being loved back by those we love. Christ love as shown on the cross is sufficient for the believer.
Paul’s final remarks seem harsh, but we must remember that the people Paul were writing to were surrounded by pagan god and their priests. Galatia was near Phrygia and the main worship of that area was the worship of Cybele. The priests and really devout worshippers of Cybele would mutilate themselves by castration. So Paul is saying to those who push following the law, they might as well go as far as the priest of Cybele and castrate themselves too. The people hearing the letter would have gotten this message that we might miss today.
The question for us is do we act and live as though we are free? Are their burdens we carry that we need not carry? Are we trying to please God to earn his love and thus, create additional burden on ourselves?” Or do we love others out of the faith we have in Christ? We are free to love, so what does that look like in your life?
Blessings and Peace