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?

The Rescue of Ransom

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Day 2 – The rescue of ransom

Two years ago we came out of one of the most difficult times in our lives. We had a season like no other of fighting the good fight, standing strong, and letting God hold us up when we had nothing left.

One day, during the struggle, we were driving from somewhere to something. What it was, I can’t even remember, and it hardly matters. What I remember was my husband blaring the radio to some song.

My nerves were on edge and I asked him to turn it down.

“So, it’s kind of loud.”

His response: “Yep.”

“No, I mean, it’s really loud.” I lean up to turn it down. Insert death glare from my husband here. I leaned back. Now, he’s singing along.

I lose it. “Dave, seriously, can’t we turn it down. This is ridiculous. You’re not even listening to me. It’s TOO LOUD!”

My husband, who asks for so very little, you have to understand. He rarely has an opinion about anything less than what is eternally significant. He looked at me and his eyes turned a little sad. “Can’t you hear it? Listen.”And so I did. I listened.

You hold my head up.
You remind me who I am.
You hold my head up.
I’m alive in You again.
I’m made new.
(Made New, Lincoln Brewster)*

What I didn’t understand, that became crystal clear in a moment, was that my husband needed to know that God called him loved and that God called him ransomed, that God called him new. I had spent so much of my time concerned with my own needs, particularly in our struggle and suffering. I was raging against God, yelling at Him in the dark of night, and offering my tears as a living sacrifice of prayer. My husband, however, was clinging to what He knew, what He had read in the Word, what He had been instructed in since he was a tow-headed toddler on chubby legs.

This song in that moment reminded him of the Biblical truths stored deep in His heart – he was God’s. He was held by God. He was made new in God. Maybe most importantly during that time for him was this message, though…God lifts our heads, God lifts our shame.

We hear this Truth in Isaiah 35:8-10 –

And a highway shall be there,
    and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
    It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
    even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.[a]
No lion shall be there,
    nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
    but the redeemed shall walk there.
10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
    and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
    they shall obtain gladness and joy,
    and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

We walk a road, even in trouble and difficulty, that is not shaming. We walk a road paved by the Savior of the world, who has gone before us. We will not be attacked by ravenous beasts, although sometimes it feels like it. This is the road for the redeemed. The devil, he tries, but he may not have us. Jesus keeps us on the path, walking sure and strong, heads held high. Though we may feel like tucking our tails, hiding away beneath a rock, Christ is the one holding our faces high. His intercession for us reminds us Whose we are. We belong to the Most High God. We are Holy, because He is Holy. We have been ransomed – brought out – of whatever has tried to overcome us.

Everlasting joy is on our heads, not guilt, not struggle, not shame.

Psalm 47:5-7 –

God has gone up with a shout,
the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!

Look also a couple chapters later at Psalm 49:7-8, as well as 49:15.

Truly no man can ransom another,
or give to God the price of his life,
for the ransom of their life is costly
and can never suffice…
But God will ransom my soul from the
power of Sheol
(death/hell),
for he will receive me.

He is King. Only He can save. Only He is enough. No person, no man, no ruler, no idea can rescue us, can bring us out and lift our heads as He can.

Only He determines our value and He calls us worth ransoming.

Thank you, Lord! Hold your heads up, girls! You have been brought out. You have been ransomed.

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Exploration:

What other Scriptures come to mind when you think of God paving the way, or God’s work on a road/path?

What are some examples of things that trap people in shame and keep them from seeing their value in Christ Jesus?

 

*Made New by Lincoln Brewster Official Lyric Video

*Photo overlay made with the instaquote app. Photos tagged by ilovemyshepherd.com are always sharable!

We are honored by God

 

Day 2 – We are honored by God.

Today’s study begins with our heart verse for the week. (I call them heart verses because I am not great at memory work, and the word “memory” leaves me kicking and screaming, but I believe there are messages God leaves us in Scripture that He writes on our heart through the Spirit. We can strategically tuck these in our heart for a later date, and that is of infinite value, eternal value.)
Let’s dive in today and read Isaiah 43:1-7 in our Bibles.
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
    

he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    

I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    

and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
    

Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
    

and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.
Fear not, for I am with you;
    

I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.
I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
    

and my daughters from the end of the earth,
 everyone who is called by my name,
    whom I created for my glory,
    whom I formed and made.”
I was in a Bible study a couple of years ago where we had to count how many times the word you or your was used in these seven verses. Try it now, it’s quite striking. How many did you get?
22 times! Yes, 22 times in these seven verses of Scripture God tells us in a multitude of ways how valued we are. I know Faith is not simply all about me and it’s important that we understand that. But when I found this passage of Scripture, my heart ached with God’s truth, in a way I had not heard or understood it before. God loves me. 
God honors me. God has called me, God has washed me. God has ransomed me. God gave Jesus in exchange for me. God says this all over Scripture, but this is the only place I have ever found that God simply says those three little words our hearts were made to long for – I love you.
Straight from the mouth of God, not wrapped up tightly in abstract theological ideas, but plain for me to see. My honor, people’s honor, the Church’s honor, whatever is honorable is held tightly by a God who loves.
*Fun fact: The Hebrew for honor in this verse (Isaiah 43:4) is niḵ·baḏ·tā, which essentially has the same definition as the Greek word we found in Philippians 4:8 and studied on day 1 –semna, meaning heavy, burdensome, weighty and/or important.