“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.” (Galatians 5:13)
Valuing input from local marketplace perspectives, our leadership team had convened a group of independent insurance agents who sold our company’s products in their respective cities and towns. When the conversation tangentially alluded to the regulatory climate in a neighboring state, one of the sales professionals quipped, “In [that state], a crooked politician is one who won’t stay bought!” We all had a good guffaw at the easy target of “politics as usual,” yet the story is reminiscent of a deeper purpose for us who have found full and forever life in Christ—our call to stay free.
The young Galatian church had found themselves infiltrated and influenced by those insisting on gaining God’s favor through legalistic means, and it showed. “Where is that joyful and grateful spirit you felt?”1 Paul asked of their fleeting joy. “After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?”2 Now, if anyone understood the end result of human effort, it was Paul, “a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees”3 and “extremely zealous for the traditions of [his] fathers.”4 “As for righteousness,” he once recalled, “I obeyed the law without fault.”5 Then what did human accomplishments and worldly accolades gain for the apostle? “I consider everything a loss,” he wrote, “because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”6 Paul had sought God’s favor through the merit of his own perfection, only to find it through the grace and perfection of Christ. There was no comparison, and there was no going back.
“Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.”7 Paul’s words speak as much to us as to the Galatians, so how do we remain in spiritual freedom, and where do we regain “that joyful and grateful spirit”? Personally, I have found that, whenever I find myself in despair, doubt, anxiousness and the like, the best thing to do is to savor what is true, that in His initiating love God called us to Himself—boldly and by name. “And having called [us], he gave [us] right standing with himself … he gave [us] his glory.”8 In Christ, we have God’s favor; we are free from the impossible task of earning it. May we then stay free, and may we freely live.
Father, though I know I cannot earn your love, I’m still tempted to try. Remind me of your boundless love for me, that I’d freely serve others in gratitude and joy. Amen.
1 Galatians 4:15 NLT
2 Galatians 3:3 NLT
3 Acts 23:6
4 Galatians 1:14
5 Philippians 3:6 NLT
6 Philippians 3:8, 9
7 Galatians 5:1 NLT
8 Romans 8:30 NLT