Freedom in Love: People and all their opinions

People are difficult.

They have a lot of opinions.

Frankly, I am difficult. I have a lot of opinions.

I like dark roast coffee, thick and rich. I like it so dark and thick that a guy in our first congregation told me that my coffee had hair on it.

I think conversation is more important than time. I’ll choose talking over getting a move on every time and it drives people batty.

I don’t like words like conservative or liberal, traditional or contemporary, confessional or progressive. What do they mean? Very different things to different people, and so I find them troublesome and confusing, and they unintentionally create unnecessary assumptions.

See, I have a lot of opinions.

Paul feels like a brother to me, because he is a man of opinions too. And he’s not afraid to share them. He began Galatians 5:2 yesterday with “I, Paul…”

I like that he doesn’t hide behind another source, but is willing to take the heat for his thoughts, even when he is proclaiming the Gospel. “I’m saying this…not someone else, not the elders, not Peter, but I, Paul.” This is wise and we can learn from Paul in this. Why?

Because opinions were made for relationships, and more than that, relationships were made for love.

In our section from Galatians today you can hear and almost feel the affection of Paul jumping off the page. Don’t get me wrong. He’s pretty hot tempered. He’s pretty opinionated. He’s got some stuff to share, some Truth to dispense. But he begins with love, ends with love, and there’s a whole lot of it in between. Please read Galatians 5:6-15. Note anything that sounds like love to you, whether a word, desire, or tone:

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

These are some of my favorite words from Paul, mostly because of the great vulnerability you find in his heart for the people.

“None of it counts, but Jesus…but faith in Love!”

“You were doing so well…what the heck happened?”

“I have confidence that you’ll see Truth here, because I know you all. I know your heart for Christ.”

It’s a segment that lends itself to paraphrase because you have been there. You have sat with someone who you want to convince so deeply of Christ and His great love, of His Truth working in love, that your heart is breaking. It’s easy to sit with Paul as he writes to the Galatians and understand his zeal, but don’t miss his love and enduring affection. It’s the suck-your-breath-in emotion, of longing for something better for someone, of not only sharing an opinion, yes, but hurting because they hurt, so much so that you can feel it in your chest.

This is the best place to be to share an opinion. Should we share the Word with people every day and every way? Yes! But the rubber hits the road and we can be heard in relationship with someone that began at one point, shared a lot of love in the middle, and is open to the Truth because of all the love passing back and forth.

The Greek root word for emasculate in Galatians 5:12 is apokoptó, meaning to smite, cut off, mutilate, or emasculate. Translators choose emasculate here because Paul is a wordsmith of great cleverness. This feels tongue in cheek to me, and so while you may not have noticed or set it aside as a point of affection earlier, hear it now. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Paul is joking, because he’s so fired up, but certainly we can classify it as tongue-in-cheek. Paul is proclaiming that the Judaizers, the false brothers that trouble the Galatians so, would do to themselves the very thing and more that they so strongly insist from the Galatians, whom Paul loves.

It reminds me of my mom, when I would share my high school woes. “They should just go catch a duck!” she would say, or something else odd like that. Bottom line, I understood the point – they are trying to catch something, or someone rather, and you don’t need to be it. It was kitchy and thoughtful and always made me laugh, which was half the point.

Paul’s message is similar- don’t let them catch you. They don’t value you. God values you and He gave you freedom.

Love looks like freedom.

I don’t say that lightly. You can’t run around and proclaim freedom on the street corner (well, you can, but it just may not be very effective) because there is not relationship. Proclaiming love and freedom outside of relationship says, “Do whatever you want! Be whatever you want! No worries! Sin away!”

Love in relationship says, “Ack. This is unsettling you. Do you see how it’s hurting you? I want more for you.” (Galatians 5:12)

That is an opinion that can be heard. That speaks with purpose. That showers love.

As Paul tells the Galatians, we remind ourselves, “Use your freedom wisely.” (Galatians 5:13) Aka love, love, and love some more, always in Christ.

Sometimes, church bodies like to bite and devour one another, mine included. Opinions, because they are connected to the Word of God, and they value the Word of God, get louder and more aggressive all the time.

Your church body may seem similar. It’s been going on since Paul was a pastor. There’s nothing new under the sun.

Paul’s wisdom still holds true:

May love consume our zeal.

May it come at the beginning, at the end, and be found flowing like mad in the middle. May all our opinions be spoken and grounded in a love that carried a cross, walked out of a tomb, and ascended so the Spirit could move in us, bring freedom to us continually, every day.

Brothers and sisters, drink dark roast coffee or light roast, be on time or five minutes late, share the Word in season and out of season in its most unadulterated form, but do so in love, always, always in His love.


Discussion questions:

What strong opinions do you have on silly or big things?

What difference do you see in the way we share our opinions online or in other public ways versus sharing in relationship and conversation? What good do you see in either? What difficulty?

How does love change zeal? Where have you seen this done well?

Freedom in Confrontation: In your face and all that

I have a wild imagination.

Every time I read our passage of Scripture today I picture the Apostle Paul as a boxer (in full getup) yelling, “In Yo’ Face, Peter!”

I am sorry if I have tainted the Word for you with my imagination. 😉

Remember the backdrop from our previous days of study – false brothers, both Peter and Paul entrusted by God with the Gospel, along with the leaders of the Jerusalem church, Barnabas, Titus, and others. And awesome, huge, growing fellowship, not without their issues.

Let’s read Galatians 2:11-14:

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

“…I opposed him to his face…”

So, you can see where I’m coming from.

The Greek root word for opposed in the ESV translation of Galatians 2:11, above, is transliterated anthistémi. Translations include: oppose, resist, withstand, or take a stand against.

I am sure that Paul did not take this lightly. Paul’s letters in the New Testament consistently reference his constant prayer, his conviction, yes, but his concern for reasonableness, discernment, and great affection for fellow believers in Christ.

Still, at some point, Paul decided it was time to speak up, it was worth speaking up. Peter was being incongruent in the faith and while this is a big deal for all believers (walking what we talk, and talking what we walk), it is a massive deal for leaders and teachers of the faith, those of us with influence over others.

Peter ate with Gentiles, fellowshipped with Gentiles, reached Gentiles, after a vision given him by God (Acts 10:9-16, Acts 11:2-9) and then, in certain company – namely, pushy, Judaizer company – made a conscious or unconscious decision to separate himself from the Gentiles. Paul accurately called this hypocrisy.

Oh goodness. We have been there. We are all hypocrites. It’s just true. In some way, we have not managed to walk the talk or talk the walk. Let’s just confess that here and now.

But we also have all been called upon by God to help a brother out, to speak up when our fellow brother or sister in Christ has fallen prey to Satan’s temptation of putting on the mask, being different than who God made them to be and who they are in Christ, for a certain select group of people.

It’s never easy.

How do we do confrontation well?

First,

Ask – is this person a believer?

Or am I expecting believer behavior from an unbeliever? The Bible tells us that we can’t expect righteousness from the unrighteous. It’s not judging the unbeliever; it’s actually a measure of grace. If you work with someone that isn’t a believer, why are we surprised that person wants their way, that there may be something underhanded happening, or they are gossiping?

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. Romans 6:17-19

We aren’t better as believers (certainly not!), but we should know better. We have a moral compass known as Christ working in us, when the rest of the world, who doesn’t know Christ, will not have that moral compass. We will confront believers and unbelievers differently with the Truth and Love found in the Word.

Ask – what kind of relationship do I have with this person?

It’s sooooo tempting to point out incongruence and injustice at every turn, whether directly or indirectly. Our internal justice radar goes crazy and we naturally want to see what is right. However, relationship always matters more than right.

Paul had an actual relationship with Peter. They were in similar roles and dealing with similar questions and struggles. They had conversed about said struggles on more than one occasion. Paul didn’t just walk up to a stranger known as Peter at temple and say, “Dude, get it together. You’re excluding people. It’s totally wrong and you should be defrocked.” There was a relationship there long before there was a confrontation.

Ask – is this a blanket of love or boxing gloves?

I’m partial to cheese today, but it feels appropriate with Peter’s history. It’s really just a nemonic device to remember that we should always enter confrontation, speaking up, opposition, disagreements, and difficult discussion with humility. Am I speaking the Truth in Love? That brings real freedom.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:15-16 

This is how God designed confrontation – wrapped in a crazy amount of love. Jesus, Himself, confronted Peter in the Gospels, as well as others, more than once, but it’s only as effective as the love between brothers.

Jesus loves us so much that He died for us. Nothing can separate us from His love. He can say anything and everything to us, because He wraps everything in love, always seeking our freedom from the bondage of whatever is holding us in its grip.

Paul chased freedom for Peter. He loved him enough to speak face-to-face, man-to-man, brother-to-brother. He didn’t send a text or call him out on social media. He loved with honor, care, and genuine concern, even when it was uncomfortable.

Freedom in confrontation – learning together, one day at a time.


Discussion questions:

Have you ever had to confront someone? Was it the right thing to do? What could you have done differently?

How does God bring healing in the midst of and after confrontation?

What things matter enough to confront a friend or family member about?

YA Bonus – Freedom to Speak Up


If we’re honest, this life feels weighty.

You feel a little bit of this when you’re a kid – families have struggles, people we love pass away, and other kids aren’t always kind.

It starts to feel heavier as a teen – choices aren’t as easy, we struggle with right and wrong, decisions aren’t all up to our parents and teachers anymore, we begin to see that God is calling us to our own lives, our own faith, our own paths.

Then adulthood crashes in and you suck in your breath. What the heck?! Where did all this junk come from? The world is falling apart, families are more messed up than you ever knew, and life is hard. There are literally decisions to be made every day, every moment it seems and they matter, they really matter.

First, take heart. There’s grace. God always has grace for us. More than that, He gives us grace packaged in the form of freedom.

Galatians 5:1 –

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Paul challenges us to simply live in the freedom we’ve been given.

Each week, in our Chasing Freedom YA podcast we’ll look through a passage and find some freedom we may have been missing.

This week – Freedom from Apathy, Freedom to Speak Up

All that weightiness. It can crash in like waves against a rocky crag and it’s so easy to curl up into what’s easy and what feels simpler – tuning out – rather than tuning in and letting God do His thing.

It feels easier to only care about the moment, only care about ourselves, and only care about the fun stuff, but God is calling us to something bigger, something bolder in this life, something better.

Let’s look through 1 Timothy 4:4-14 and find out more about this beautiful life and freedom in Christ that we have been called to.

Your voice matters. Please use it.

You are free – speak up!

Question of the Week: Where can I speak up and speak hope?