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 Hope lived loud

Name one word that describes your emotional state at this moment?

 

Depending where you are at in life, your burdens, your zeal for this day, you may be feeling happy, sad, lonely, excited, or frustrated.

I have no idea what you wrote down, but I’d love to hear it in the comments! I can imagine that if we put all our words together we would have a wide and varied list of descriptions. Our emotions change day to day, moment to moment, even when some seem persistent enough to poke at us for a season.

My word would be filled or freaking out depending on the attitudes in my house, the schedule on my phone, and the news on the screen.

Hope is different. Romans 5:5 tells us that Hope doesn’t disappoint us.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

It does not shame us.

It does not disgrace us.

It does not confuse us.

Can you imagine what it would be like to live without hope?

I pray you do not know. Without it our emotions and life itself feel so confusing, so broken beyond repair, so disgraceful.

Paul’s heart screamed out to the Galatians that hope was in front of them despite life’s confusion and doubts. Hope was worth gripping onto with all their might, even as someone tried to drag it away. Hope does not disgrace.

Let’s read Galatians 5:2-6 to hear more:

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

The false brothers, the Jewish believers that insisted on circumcision for the Galatians, were trying to sever their relationship with Jesus, sever their relationship with salvation. Their method of dispensing the law was confusion, so Paul uses straightforward language. Earlier in Galatians we saw his linear arguments about the place of the law in life after Christ Jesus. We saw the place of sonship in Abraham, sonship in Christ, and the technical differences between the two. Now Paul just says it like it is:

Circumcision, not necessary. It doesn’t matter. End of story. (Galatians 2:2)

So often in this confusing world we need someone to do that for us.

And Paul does:

We cannot keep the whole law. (Galatians 2:3)

There is sin in us, sin in the world, and we cannot make it better. We can’t wish it away. We can’t ignore it or it will choke us. It will push us off the cliff, and we will find ourselves watching as grace slips away from our line of sight.

Obviously, this is not freedom.

Satan’s breed of confusing us – whispering in our ears we’re not enough and we’re just fine on our own, all at the same time – it scratches to try to sever us from God and His goodness, His mercy. (Galatians 2:4)

Paul wants better for the Galatians and he wants better for us.

“For through the Spirit…”

The Spirit brings something new into the confusion that literally makes things right. Makes us righteous and changes our lives with hope.

Hope shines Christ into confusion.

Circumcision, uncircumcision – none of it matters. That is hope. Letting Christ be the center is where freedom is.

Just letting Him live out and live loud in our life;

letting Him, through the Spirit already in us by His grace, infiltrate all of our life, all of our heart, our soul, our mind, our strength,

that is freedom.

We aren’t free falling. We are held tightly in His righteousness, in freedom won for us.

We have hope.

Hope speaks over the voices that create all the confusion. Life might look or feel confusing now, or at least some days, but we eagerly wait, Paul says, for that moment, that time when all things will be new before our eyes. We pass on that hope to our children and to our families, to our friends, because who wants to live without hope, without freedom?

Today might be confusing, but Christ lives loud. The Spirit lives loud constantly reminding us…

“Oh yeah, hope.”

Hope deals with the big stuff, so we can bring it into the little stuff. Hope walks into your life shaped like grace and works into the fabric of everything around you.

Hope is loud like that too.

And hope does not disappoint, does not shame, does not disgrace.

Hope frees.

#lifetogether – Connect and send someone this week’s free downloadable Dear 52 card or order the whole set here

Discussion questions:

What things in life feel confusing or produce anxiety for you? (Like wars, family arguments, etc.)

What emotion is your least favorite to deal with? (anger, fear, excitement, etc.)

What difference does hope make in the day-to-day in your home or work, as you make dinner, talk to your family, do work projects, etc.? Where do you see Jesus living loud in the everyday?

There are a lot of etc.’s in my examples. 😉 What hope is there in the fact that Jesus holds all the etc.’s?

YA Bonus – Freedom isn’t all about you

Someone next to you needs to hear your voice.

Perhaps you don’t already know this, so I will speak it plainly:

Someone needs you.

You know people that I don’t know. You sit beside people that I do not sit beside. You have influence in the lives of people around you, whether you know it or not.

When you speak hope, hope shines.

When you speak Life, Life shines.

When you speak Christ, Christ shines.

There are people in this world who will never open a Bible, and people who may hear the name of Jesus but do not know the freedom He offers, the power of the resurrection to lift guilt and shame and all the junk of life.

Your pressures and struggles are different than mine. Youth and young adults have pressures and struggles that I can imagine, I can talk about from my experience, but ears aren’t quite as open to my voice in the past tense. You have the benefit of the present. You have the benefit of, “I’ve been there. I am there. We’re in it together.”

In today’s podcast we’ll discuss some unique yokes of young adulthood and why “in it together” matters more than you might think.