Friday, May 19, 2017

Galatians: Faith through Love-Love with Faith

The key issue in Paul's letter to the Galatians was whether to obey the Jewish law and whether a person was justified by doing the law or through faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul's point was that if you want to rely on works to save you, then do the law but also you make sure you do it all--or be cursed (Gal 3:10).  Rather, Paul argues, live life in Christ--Living in the Spirit.  In other words, don't turn following Jesus into legalism. If the law has been essentially fulfilled in Christ, it means being in relationship (reconciled) with the Godhead rather than following rules or thinking that you can achieve salvation by completing a to-do list.  

ἀλλὰ πίστις δι’ ἀγάπης ἐνεργουμένη. (Gal5:6b)
(but faith working/made effective through apage-love)

Indeed we are justified by faith in Jesus (Gal 2:16).  However, it is agape-Love with Faith, and faith through love--those things are inter-related and inter-connected.  Likewise, it is faith AND action; Action AND faith.  It's a false dichotomy to pitch one against the other. We can believe in all sorts of things, but until we take action to live out that belief, adopt new attitudes and habits, and change our underlying motivations--it's all cerebral; nothing in us in fact changes.  It's also a false dichotomy to pitch the sacred against the secular and to make doing sacred activities (or spiritual activities) somehow more important to God.  That said, it's a gospel only focused only on Social Justice is also of concern; in other words balance and holding those in tension is important.  remembering, God is sovereign over ALL creation.  Further, it is not a blind faith we're after where we simply follow and believe something because someone has told us to--we need to check it out ourselves and we need to own it. The Holy Spirit helps us through this. 

It's important to highlight Galatians 3:26/Galatians 4:7, when Paul states that "So you are no longer a slave, but a son [and daughter], and if a son [and daughter], then an heir [and heiress] through God."  Freedom arrives when we stop living life as a list of to-do's but by believing in Jesus through faith.  That said, freedom doesn't mean we can do whatever we want--it does come with responsibility; through love, serve one another (Gal5:13)--to love your neighbor as yourself (Gal5:14).  Also, don't grow weary of "doing good" as Galatians 6:9-10 says. Our new identity (we are new Creation Gal6:15) by which we live each day--we are free from slavery, and we are sons and daughters, heirs and heiresses to the creator God.  How are you embracing your new identity in Christ?

But what is the gospel--"good news"? It's often simplified to be believing in Jesus and all your life troubles will be resolved.  Yes, but that's a truncated gospel; that's like reading Galatians without reading the rest of the Bible.  Whenever Jesus gave parables, it was about the "Kingdom at Hand" (Mark1:15).  In the Lord's prayer, we pray "your Kingdom come." More, the gospel is truncated because it doesn't explain WHY it's good news--meaning it is disconnected from the larger narrative of God's plan from creation to the telos (end purpose) and God's mission (missio Dei).  It is declaring publicly that Jesus is King-King of the cosmos, and his Kingdom is inaugurated here on earth today.   The end of the narrative has been revealed in Him. Death and Sin have been conquered.  Satan has been bound and conquered because of Christ and what Christ has done.  It needs reminding that it is not what we do, but what God has done from the beginning--God is the one who is first faithful, and therefore, we can be faithful in our every day living.  We get to be a part of God's family and we have free access to God because of Christ. We also participate in God's mission. 

In the workplace, there's not much joy in what we do if all we're doing every day is following a list of to-dos; but if following a list of to-dos gives you joy (cf. Brother Lawrence)--that's good!  But I feel something is missing if we're not able to express our unique gifts and talents, live out our calling, express our creativity and imagination, be challenged where we need to live in dependence in God every day, and to thrive in what we do--something is missing.  I am certain though that we will not be effective leaders if all we're doing is dictating rules for others to follow; and reprimanding others or making them guilty if they don't.  Neither will a business last if everyone in it is focused on serving themselves.  Galatians challenges us not only to live life differently (life in freedom) but also challenges our attitudes about our work and how we lead and interact with people in our day to day lives.  More, to live life in Christ and in the Spirit.  Further, our work doesn't define us, but faith necessitates change in us and change in how we approach work and treat others.

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