At supper in South Korea, I sat next to a young woman who just returned from teaching English in China on a university campus. She’s here now because the Chinese government has tightened down their control of their citizens. Surveillance cameras are everywhere. High powered computers track the mega data coming in about each citizen. Talk about big brother watching you! Who would ever want to place themselves back under that kind of bondage when you had escaped to freedom?
Now the Apostle Paul hasn’t been talking about political freedom, but a far more precious deliverance—freedom from being a slave to our internal, evil passions, to our guilt, and trying to escape by becoming more and more devoted to religious rules, traditions, and authorities. Paul’s argument has been clear. Jesus, the Messiah, set us free. His death justly paid for our sin. His resurrection life pours through our being, and his Spirit resides right inside our lives. We can call God our Baba, and we can rest knowing that there is now no condemnation because we are in Christ Jesus. Why would anyone ever want to go back under the enslaving bondage of living under the Law? But false teachers are conning believers in Galatia and some of them are close to walking away from freedom in Jesus, so Paul cries out to them not to abandon the freedom they have in Christ.
“For freedom the Messiah has sent us free; therefore, stand firm and don’t become subject again to the yoke of slavery. Look, it’s me, Paul, telling you this. Allow yourself to be circumcised, and the Messiah will be of no benefit to you. Again, I’m solemnly testifying to anyone, allow yourself to be circumcised, and you’re obligated to obey the whole Law. You who seek to be declared righteous before God by the Law, you need to face this reality. It will mean you will be alienated from the Messiah. You have fallen away from grace. For we, by the Spirit flowing out of our faith in Jesus, we’re the ones who are expectantly waiting for that righteousness that will certainly be in our future when we stand before God. For when we get serious about what is paramount, it’s intimate closeness with the Messiah, it’s not circumcision or uncircumcision. These things don’t mean anything. What counts is faith expressing itself by love.” Galatians 5:1-6
LORD, protect our brothers and sisters in Christ in China who are losing much of their political and social freedom. Help them to have great hope and joy in the freedom of faith and love and joy that they have in your grace. Open the hearts of Chinese who travel to other countries where they can freely hear Paul’s Gospel of salvation by grace through faith to believe.
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