Freedom to walk, run, or crawl (Chasing Freedom 5:3)

When my oldest was little she was a big fan of the army crawl.

First she rolled everywhere she needed to go, then she got determined enough to put elbows to carpet and chug along. Being a very new mom I had no idea this phenomenon existed. My husband and I would stand there cradling our mugs of some warm beverage and watch just for entertainment. She didn’t crawl in the traditional way for months. Who needs knees, when you can use your core and have abs of steel, right?

What struck me most in all this was her determination. She was undaunted.

She didn’t want help. She wanted freedom.

Freedom to roam.

Freedom to try and fail.

Freedom to use some grit.

Freedom to journey in her own way.

People have all kinds of opinions about how we should get to where we are going, don’t they? Our journey on Earth rarely looks like someone else’s but we all sure try to get there by someone else’s methods all the time.

Paul reminds the Galatians that they are Free with a capital F. Their freedom comes from God, not from man, not from manuals that tell them the “right way to do it,” not from generations of tradition, but from a God who loves, who forgives, who holds.

Paul proclaims to the Galatians in Galatians 5:7-8 –

 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.

Who cut in on you?

Whether it’s others or our own expectations, the “shoulds” of life, or persuasion from others, ideas of rightness – the freedom to fall flat on our faces and get up again comes from God and God alone.

He calls us to this life.

He calls us to walk, to run, or to crawl in this journey, and he calls all three of them Good in Christ.

Paul brings a little more insight and a little more wisdom in Galatians 5:16-18:

 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 

“You were running, walking is good too,” Paul says, “but remember that all of it is done in the Spirit.” (Heidi’s paraphrase)

Why are we so convinced that we need to run, when God is telling us, “Go ahead and walk, sweet child”?

Why are we so convinced that we need to do it the right way, the non-existent and evasive only way, someone else’s way?

Whether these ideas are put on us by others or well up in our own hearts and minds to yoke us up, they aren’t from the One who called us, but Paul also tells us that the Spirit is alive and well.

Acts 17:27-28 is so reassuring I think we should post it on our foreheads for one another:

God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

He is not far. He put Himself inside of us in His Holy Spirit. He lives there. He moves there. His desires begin to mesh with ours in a way that we can’t quite fathom. And when we mess up, when we yoke ourselves to those earthly desires, when we walk contrary, He doesn’t desert us. He doesn’t leave us on a whim. He watches us army crawl, and gently guides us away from the giant electrical sockets of life, sometimes letting us get that little jolt first, for useful teaching later.

I honestly think crawling is better. It gets us to that place of humility where Christ does His best work. The sting of pain, the consequences of failure, bring us before His feet, resting our burdens before Him, where they were intended to be anyway.

The freedom to crawl, to do life the imperfect way, sets our hearts on fire with grace and forgiveness in a way that propels us into a run, a sprint, a marathon, a good race in His love and His mercy in this abundant life.

So run, walk, crawl, or do it any other way knowing that the Spirit is alive, well, and active in your soul this day and every day.

Free in Christ!


Discussion questions:

What strange methods of crawling have you seen?

What places do crawling, walking, and running have in our faith walk?

When have you found God lifting you up in your journey to propel forward when you thought you were too tired, or you wanted to give up?

Refusing to struggle alone: We have a place (Chasing Freedom 4:2)

Once upon time I had a weird tropical illness known as Dengue Fever.

I could explain what it is, how it went down, and all that business, but the important information is that I was down and out for a good three months. First, it was very scary. Then, it was painful. Mostly, it was exhausting.

Have you ever had an ailment, an illness, even a heartbreak that left you weak, weary, and in need of help?

Paul has been there. Read Galatians 4:12-15 to find out more:

Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. 13 You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 14 and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me.

Wow. That’s commitment.

We don’t know what Paul’s ailment was, and I think that is rather purposeful. God puts things in Scripture for a purpose, but He also leaves them out for just as much purpose, I believe.

Some of you have been there. Some of you are there every day with chronic pain, a current crisis, or an ongoing difficult relationship – an ailment is sometimes visible, and sometimes hidden way deep, underneath the layers of life, that only the individual can see.

I want to assure you that God sees. God knows.

In the context of Galatians 4, Paul uses the existence of his ailment and the prior relationship he had with the Galatians to remind them of who he is and the truth he speaks in, the gravity of the relationship that binds them together. Why should the Galatians believe Paul’s message of freedom over the Judaizers? In the early chapters of Galatians, Paul speaks to his authority given by God to proclaim truth, and here Paul speaks to the relationship of the Body of Christ that holds a certain weight in sharing the truth.

There is freedom in relationships that can share truth, isn’t there? Praise the Lord for the Body of Christ.

However, there is another layer of freedom here that I don’t want to miss:

We don’t have to struggle alone.

Yes, we live in this Body of Christ, the church on earth, and speak truth to each other, hear the truth of Christ’s sacrifice for us together, but we also struggle together.

Everyone has a place – weak, strong, in poverty and in wealth, in joy and in sorrow.

When I was sick, I couldn’t do anything, and so others did it for me. People took care of my kids, fed my husband, sat and read me magazines, prayed for me, and gave me hope. These may have seemed like small kindnesses, but they spoke great mercy into my life.

Paul honors what the Galatians have done for him, what kindness they have shown him –

and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me… (Galatians 4:14)

…if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. (Galatians 4:15)

It’s graphic and beautiful.

We so often think of the challenges of relationship, the dynamics of relationship that burden us in this imperfect life together. Here, Paul honors the freedom of giving our lives to one another, through the mercy found in Christ Jesus.

2 Corinthians 4:13-16 speaks about God’s grace and mercy, and in that freedom, extending that grace out through our relationship with one another:

Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 

God works freedom on the cross once and for all. God proclaims freedom to each of us day by day, in one another, through His Spirit alive and well in us.

We do not struggle alone. There is no scorn here. No shame, no “less than” in our weakness.

When we are weak, then He is strong.

This is not the way of the world, so we may need to proclaim it to one another daily, hourly, moment by moment –

“No struggling alone.”

“I’m here.”

“God is with us. Christ is with us.”

When a brother or sister feels the yoke of aloneness, we reach in and help them lift it off in the name of Christ.

In it together. All of it.


Discussion questions:

What ailments have you had in this life? What needs did you have and how did God help meet them?

When have you felt alone in the struggles of life?

When have you seen God work through the Body to reach more and more people through someone’s ailment or struggle?

Freedom in Confrontation: In your face and all that (Chasing Freedom 2:3)

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?