Galatians 5:1 (NRSV)
5 1 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:13–25 (NRSV)
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
The Works of the Flesh
16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
The Fruit of the Spirit
(Cp Col 3:12–13)
22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
This week’s passage is one of my favorites as well as one of the most troubling. This is often the case. You see I truly want to live a life that reflects Christ, but I still struggle. At times I think I know what is best and everyone else is misinformed. Then there are other times where I am able to recognize that in a given situation there is not one clear cut answer, but many answers with varying outcomes that are acceptable in a given situation. This struggle I realize is a struggle within.
Paul, in the fifth chapter of Galatians, begins the closing arguments to this debate that he has been having in regard to the gentile need to become Jewish. Last week Paul said that the Law that was handed down to Moses was like the person that was placed over children to control and protect them. This individual was, for lack of better descriptions, a slave master. Their purpose was to rule over, to dictate, and to ensure the survival of the children. To the children this individual had to be obeyed, there were no other options because if anything were to happen to the children it was this individual that would be held responsible. The slavery image in this situation fails after a time because when the child matures they become responsible for themselves, and the Protector is no longer needed.
When Paul speaks of this he is saying that under the law we are held in bondage, unable to act freely. Our actions and decisions are dictated by others and those that live in this situation are not mature but children. Those that live in this way are not free. They live in a constant state of need. They need someone to tell them what is right or wrong. They need someone to let them know if an activity is beneficial or detrimental to their future. Some might consider this as being judgmental to the Jewish people. This is not the case, but I do want us to consider something. Within the Jewish traditions there are certain Rabbis that are considered authoritative. Their interpretation of the Law is considered the truth and any deviation from their interpretation is considered heresy. The people do not engage the Law itself but they engage the interpretation of the law, their views are directed to singular issues and because of this they are narrow. This however is not something that is restricted to the Jewish faith, in fact it is present in all cultures that have laws dictating human activity. At times it the views can be fairly liberal, in the sense that we have the liberty for self-interpretation, but at other times it can become authoritative.
“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” This verse is one of my favorites in all of scripture. What Paul is telling us is Christ came to set us free from those authoritarian view, where right and wrong are determined for us. There is good reason for this, because situations are not always the same. If our views are narrowed by legalism we can look at a situation and miss the heart of what is going on. To illustrate this point; each of our streets have a speed limit, meaning someone somewhere determined that on a particular roadway a specified speed is safest. If we were to drive over that speed we would be breaking the law and could be faced with a fine. But are their times when it is acceptable to exceed the posted speed? Maybe your wife is in labor and you are trying to get to the hospital where the best care will be provided, the road is clear of traffic and she is screaming so you push the pedal down to drive faster. In an authoritarian culture that situation would not justify the breaking of the law. Life is filled with several gray areas, nothing is strictly black and white. There will always be areas that are an exception to the rule.
Freedom is why Jesus came. The freedom to live as individuals and communities according to our own self-determination. I love this verse. It speaks directly to that individualistic person within me. But there is a drawback to this. If we let people have self-determination what will happen? If we were to read the books of history in the Old Testament most of us would consider the reign of David as being the golden age of the nation of Israel. But this era of their history came after Israel rejected the rule of God and demanded a king like the rest of the world. In many ways the golden age of Israel from God’s perspective would have been during the book of Judges where God was their king and the people of Israel lived with self-determination. But there was a drawback when we look at the book of Judges, people got themselves in a lot of trouble, which is why they desired a king to fight for them. Jesus came to give us freedom so we do not have to submit to yokes of slavery anymore. Under Christ we are again living as individuals and communities with God.
This is wonderful, until someone has a different point of view. Some scholars believe that the trouble with Galatians was not that they desired to become Jewish but that because they could not live in unity under Christ. So to assist them in finding unity the missionaries that Paul opposed were teaching the law to assist them in living with one another. It is a very plausible explanation, but other scholars suggest that it was the missionaries that brought in the troubles. In either case the Galatians were fighting amongst themselves.
“You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love slaves to one another.” Freedom is a wonderful thing. Our nation is built on that very idea. We have this philosophical idea that if mankind is presented with a problem we will figure out a way to overcome. We can see it in our history time and again. Yesterday when we toured Deanna Rose Farmstead we went into their bank. In that bank they said, that in the timeframe represented in the park, the people had to come up with security technologies to protect themselves. So we had the opportunity to look at a cannonball safe, a safe that was said to be robbery proof. This was because it was round so explosives and other cutting devises were ineffective and it had a time lock so you one could not pick it. When people are given the opportunity they can come up with great ideas to overcome their problems. But there is a flip side to the ideas of self-rule. Why did the banks have to come up with security technology?
We have freedom, we can determine our future, at times people can use their freedom to infringe and exploit others because no one will stop them from doing so. Self-indulgence is why nations become more authoritarian. Self-indulgence is where my ideas and desires supersede the freedom of someone else. Again throughout history we have seen this occur. We have freedom in Christ, self-determination is important to God, but selfishness is in opposition to God.
Freedom is Godly, legalism is ungodly. Selfishness is opposed to God while selflessness is righteous. Paul goes on to tell us that the entire law can be summed up in one command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Consider this. Paul is saying that for us to fulfill everything in the law, we need this attitude. If we live by this one statement we will not fall into self-indulgence because we are watching out for our neighbors with the same passions that we are protecting our own freedoms. This form of love is very important, it is the same love that Jonathan had for David, it is the same love that the Apostles had for Jesus. It is soul love or brotherly love. It is a love that passionately protects others as if they are your own flesh. But who is our neighbor? That is a question that the religious leaders asked of Jesus, because nothing that Paul or Jesus said was new. These concepts have been present in the life of faith and life with God from the very beginning. A neighbor according to Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan is anyone around you. If they live or visit our community they are part of our community even if they do not agree with us, and we should be passionate about their lives to the same degree as we are our own.
Do we love like that? Paul is not living in a utopian ideology he is very aware that problems will arise within a community. He even give a warning, “If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” Humanity is passionate. We cannot help ourselves when we become excited about something we often grab hold and dive head first. In doing so we can lash out at those that seem to have an opposing viewpoint. We bite, we devour, we say things without thinking, and we hear things that were not really said. Be careful, Paul warns, protect the freedoms of all people and above all love them with the same love you have for yourself. Be careful not to consume or be consumed by others, Paul says, be careful because so often in our passions we forget that those that oppose us are just as loved by God as we are and have value to Him. They may be lost, they have views that differ from ours but they are loved and have value. If we are consumed or if we consume others they no longer participate in the community. Even if they remain in the fellowship they stop adding to it because others have broken their spirit.
So how do we live in a community with opposing views, with passionate people and different ideas? We live by the Spirit. If we seek the Spirit, we are entering into the lifestyle that Jesus demonstrated to us; the lifestyle of worship, prayer and service. Or as our mission statement states: Loving God, Embracing the Holy Spirit, and Living the Love of Christ with others. If we truly seek to live by the spirit we will take on this lifestyle because to live by the spirit we need worship to drive us to prayer, we need prayer to hear the Spirit, and when we hear and listen to the Spirit we will be called to live and minister with others. If we live in this way we can oppose the things that separate us from God because our lifestyle keeps us focused on God, our desire is to draw closer to Him instead of fulfilling the various desires of the flesh. And if we seek life with God we will begin to ask questions about how to show the love of Christ to those around us and He will show us.
Over the course of the years I have been here, I know that I am not and have not been perfect. I know that I have offended many, and I also know that I have defended many from bites. Unfortunately I am not perfect. I am human like everyone else. I have desires and needs, and sometimes those needs take me away from the things I feel I need to do for the church. If each of us were to examine our lives we could probably say the same. I personally needed to hear these words from God spoken through his apostle Paul. I need to hear that yes I am free in Christ. I do not have to live a life of legalism, but I still have a responsibility to others. As we enter into this time of open worship I would like us to consider a couple of these verses. First, “If, however, you bite and devour one another; take care that you are not consumed by one another.” Secondly, “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” Examine your life and our community in reference to these things and ask the Spirit to Guide you this week.
Galatians 3:23–29 (NRSV)
23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
This week has been one with a great deal of stress. With constant news reports of hate filled crimes filling the air waves along with the accusations and questions as to what the Christian stance really is. It has been one of those weeks where I personally would like to withdraw to an isolated place to just get away and pray than have another conversation. It is weeks like this where those divisions that we spoke about last week seem more pronounced. But the questions that are asked are asked for a reason. People want to know if there is something real to our faith. Is our faith something to live for or is it just a system seeking to control?
The very fact that people are asking question should let us know that the culture itself is not totally turned against Christ. They are asking questions, they are giving us an opportunity to interact with them and bear witness to the hope that we have. How we respond reveals a great deal about where our faith actually resides.
The Galatian church was one that was in the midst of a divide. Lines were being drawn and people were forced to choose a side. On one hand was those that said that the Gentiles would need to become Jewish to enter the Kingdom. The other camp focused on something else.
If we read through the whole of this letter it is quite easy to recognize what side Paul defends. The book or the Epistle to the Galatians is Paul’s defense. It is written as a defense with structured arguments based directly against the teachings of missionaries that visited the area after him. It is important to recognize that even though Paul passionately opposes the views of others he argues in such a way to encourage and build the church instead of tearing them down.
The passage last week, Paul argues that our faith is not in a system but a person, and in some ways it is not even our faith that provides the hope but the faith of the one that provides the hope for us. When he made this argument, he stated that his conclusions were also the same fundamental conclusions of those leaders at the center of the newly emerging church. Yet there still remained divisiveness within.
We cannot separate the fact that the Church is an assembly that grew out of the long history and heritage of the Jewish people. From the beginning of recorded history God chose one group or nation of people to make his revelation through. This group, though it holds influence, was never what kingdoms of men would call a super power. They remained a small nation that controlled the land linking the cultural empires. Asia, Africa, and Europe all link together along this strip of land we know as Israel. It was the center of the world and in many ways remains the center. God did not chose them because they were great but because they were common. He chose them because their father chose to follow even when it did not make sense. Israel though was not the only group loved by God. If we are to believe scripture then we would have to agree that all people and nations descended from a common source. Beginning with Adam and Eve and then through the children of Noah. All of humanity is God’s, but God chose to provide his revelation through one group, one tribe, and one family within that tribe.
Our faith is not becoming something new or different but it is a returning to what we were intended to be. This is found throughout scripture, even though God chose one group this group was to exist not in itself but for the glorification of all nations. Israel exists so that God can redeem all of mankind through them, mainly through Jesus.
Our heritage comes through this one group but where does that leave us? The argument is if we, or those that were born outside of this group, would have to abandon our cultural identity and become Jewish, would those of us that were born among the “sinners” would have to follow the laws that were given to Moses. Paul then describes what the Law really is. Paul says, “Now before faith came…” Let us just stop there for a moment and let those words saturate our minds. Before faith came. Is he saying that those that came before Christ lacked faith? No, if we were to read the verses prior to this section we would see that Paul spoke a great deal about the faith that Abraham had in God. When Paul is speaking about faith he is speaking not about a system of belief but a person of belief, or the source. Last week I stated that the phase that was translated “Faith in Jesus” could also be translated as “Faith of Jesus” this is similar. When Paul speaks of faith he is saying that Jesus is faith, He is the source and the embodiment of all faith.
“Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed.” In ancient cultures there was a particular practice that employed people to guard children. This person was different from that of a nanny, they were quite literally there to keep the children in line and to ensure they safely while they traveled from one point to the next, usually between their home and school. This particular person was the protector, not the teacher. The children were held under this person’s authority until they reached a certain age. They were like a probation officer, ensuring that nothing happened to the children and in many cases making sure the children did not bring embarrassment to the family.
Paul is saying that we were imprisoned by the law that the law was like this person that controlled the children like a jailor, keeping them out of trouble until the appointed time where maturity took over. In essence the Law was there to make sure that this one group would remain for the revelation of Christ. The law was set up to ensure that this one group would survive culturally and spiritually till the advent of Jesus.
If we were to look at the law, 613 laws about diet, architecture, interpersonal relationships and more. Laws about how to treat the people around you, how to trim our hair and clothing we could wear. The law is cold and impersonal. To put our faith in the Law is to remain a prisoner in our own family.
This cold impersonal lifestyle of the law was not the life God created us to live. God created us to be caretakers of his creation, and to walk with Him. Our faith tradition derived its name from a passage of scripture in John 15 that says. “I do not call you servants any longer because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” We were created to be friends of God. We were created to interact and have intimacy with God, to know what he is doing and to join him in that activity. Adam knew God in the garden, he knew that God wanted him to tend the garden and to name the animals. He knew that God wanted and would walk with him in the evenings. The law did not exist in the garden. The only rule was to not eat of a particular tree, because that tree would give mankind knowledge of good and evil, and that knowledge would separate us from God to such a degree that we would lose the breath of life. From that moment on because we could not be trusted, the law began to emerge.
Without the law mankind would have slowly killed themselves off. Waring against one another till chaos would have ruled. The law strictly held one group apart, throughout history so that Faith could come. Once faith came things began to change. Through Jesus the relationship with God was reconciled. Through Jesus we were able to return to the place we were created to be. Sin entered through Adam and through Jesus the wages of sin were paid. In Christ we are restored.
We were once divided but Faith came and united us again. When we cloth ourselves in Christ, when we die to ourselves and Christ lives through us, the things that once divided no longer matter. Because we are restored in Christ. We are not Jews or Gentiles only Christ. We are not slave or freemen only Christ. In Christ there cannot be divisions, only him the true faith.
Those things that we divide over do not matter in Christ. God could care less if you are an American or Mexican. He could care less if you are a democrat or republican or something in between or beyond. He does not care if you are retired or active in a career. He does not even care what gender you are because in Christ there is no difference because in Christ we are one. Consider that, let is seep into your very being. The things that we divide over have absolutely nothing to do with Christ, because Christ is not divided. Those are all aspects of the kingdoms of mankind, and have no place in the Church.
Yet we have division. What does that tell us about our faith? If we cannot see the humanity and that of God in those unlike us where is our faith? Our faith is on the things of man instead of the things of God. We are imprisoned and held captive. We are not free to be who Christ created us to be. This is what really saddens me. This is why this past week has been stressful to me. Because all around me I hear divisiveness and then am asked where is God in it all?
God is all around us if we take the time to look. He is in the friendships that we have, he is in the joy of shared experiences. He is in the meal shared with another. He is in the tears. He is in the love we have for our children and the laughter following a good joke. Where is God? Slow down, look and listen.
Before faith came we were imprisoned, after faith came we were undivided. In Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, and no male and female. There is only Christ the true vine and his branches. There is only one Church with Christ as the head and us as its members. There is only a friendship or captivity. But the captivity is not of our own choosing. We can live in the bondage of a world ruled by the kingdoms of mankind at constant war with themselves or we can live free in Christ. This week I saw mankind ripping itself apart, I also saw children bringing it back together which gives me hope.
As we enter into this time of open worship and communion as Friends consider the words that Paul spoke to us through his letter to the Galatians. Consider what in your life divides and what unites. Which is more important?
Galatians 2:15–21 (NRSV)
Jews and Gentiles Are Saved by Faith
15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. 17 But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
So much of our human existence is based on divisions; male or female, races, nationalities. The issue is that of separation. Consider for a moment the division of genders. What is the real differences? Is there something fundamentally better over one gender than the other? From a biological standpoint there are differences but those differences each complement each other to ensure survival. But what about races? Surely there is a difference in race; like gender in a biological sense the various racial features emerged to ensure survival. Which leads to nationality? If we were to look at the earth from space we would see that there the only divisions of nations are based on geological features such as an ocean, a river, or a virtually impassible mountain range. Nations could also emerge around ecological features such as a desert or rainforest. All these features require adaptations to ensure the survival of the people living in the area. The people developed cultures around these needs as well as governmental systems, languages, and methods of passing this knowledge on to the next generation.
When we look at these various differences and divisions we values on the features that we see as being of greater importance. When we look at the broader scope many of the feature that determine these various divisions have merits, there are also aspects that could improve. Within every cultural group there are aspects that attempt to control and exploit others.
Cultural anthropology can be a very interesting field of study. But that is not the point I am trying to make. We begin this portion of scripture with Paul discussing the conversation that he had with Peter and James. All those in the present in this discussion were from one cultural group. They were born into this group. They thought and acted according to the cultural understanding that was gained through being saturated in this culture. They say, “We are Jews by birth, and not Gentile sinners.” What a damning statement.
What would they mean by this statement? Paul writes this jokingly, since this is written to a nation of Gentiles. The term sin or sinner has very different interpretations, most of these interpretations are weigh heavily on cultural aspects. Mainly which side of the Jewish and Gentile division a particular human resides. So what is sin? Commonly we think of sin as a transgression of the law. That is true enough but it is only one aspect of the word. Sin is missing the mark, falling short, or even being without knowledge. So if we look at the broader definition of sin or sinner it would be someone who falls short and misses the mark because they don’t even know where the mark is. In essence they are lost people wondering around reaching out but finding nothing to grab hold of.
This is the division of the Jew and the Gentile. The Jews of Paul’s day had knowledge that had been passed down throughout their history that gave them direction to the one true, unchanging God who spoke to them through the prophets and Moses the Law Giver. The people of Israel had knowledge they were to be the light to the nations to show them the way to God, and the Gentiles were lost. They did not have knowledge and were wondering blindly living life through trial and error.
So Paul includes this divisive term in this letter, “We ourselves are Jews by birth, and not Gentile sinners.” He includes this because there were some that came to the people of Galatia that were telling them that they must take on the entire Jewish lifestyle to be a follower of Jesus. They basically said that they must become Jews or they will be left behind as Gentile sinners lost to the knowledge of God. Even to this day there are some that will teach this, and they have merit to what they say because it is true to a point. The Jewish culture has survived though times of plenty and seasons of exile and continues to this very day. Not many cultural groups can say this. But this conversation between the leaders of the church in Jerusalem and Paul did not stop there, “yet we know that a person is justified not by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law.”
Jewish by birth, Gentile sinners, justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law. These are deep theological words. If sin is to miss the mark or to be lost, the idea of justification is to bring back into alignment, to restore what is right, or to be found. But how do we gain this justification? This is the very back bone of the reformation of the Church. As time progressed the idea of being born into faith took hold of the church just as the ideas of being born Jewish would give you access to God. The reformation said that it is not the church that grants redemption but it is faith in Jesus. This faith is not just a simple acknowledgment of Jesus, but it is a belief that does not hold back, it is entrusting every aspect of who we are into the hands of God. Even this gets to being a debatable theological issue, how do we have faith do we have faith or were we predestined?
As I studied this passage this week I found that the phrase, “justified by faith in Jesus Christ,” could also be translated as, “justified by faith of Jesus Christ.” One word changes a great deal. One is an action of mankind the other is an action of Jesus. I want us to consider this for a moment, the idea of Jesus having faith for us. Where is our faith? Jesus taught that if we had faith the size of a mustard seed we could tell a mountain to move and it would move, as far as I know no saint has ever moved a mountain, but many have seen a way through many sizable obstacles. Jesus also spoke with a man who had a sick child and said that he would be healed if he believed. And the man responded to Jesus by saying help his unbelief. The child was healed even though the man had unbelief in his heart. One word changes things. In or of? What it really comes down to is Jesus. This is really what Paul, as well as Peter and James, were getting at. It does not matter if you follow all 613 laws or not, because if you break one you fail. Not only that if you happen to follow the letter of the law but miss the heart of the law you break it as well. Jesus taught that the law says that we should not kill but Jesus says if you are angry with a brother or sister you are liable for the same transgression as if you killed them. So how many people have we been angry with this week?
We cannot, even if we were born fully saturated in the Jewish culture, fulfill all the law. What the law teaches us is that in ourselves we cannot find our way back to God. We are lost, we are all sinners, wondering around grasping at wind. But we are brought into alignment by Jesus. It is only through Him that we have hope. He was the only human that lived his life sinless. He never missed a mark, he was always righteous. Even when he was angry he was angry in such a way that he did not sin.
We are justified by the faith of Jesus. If the reformation was built on the principle of being justified by faith in Jesus, the next great era of the Church is that we are justified by the faith of Jesus. It does not matter which denomination you look at this movement is throughout them all. There is an emergence of a new kind of Christianity that is not based on legalism but is based on relational aspects of life. This is the Justification by the faith of Jesus. The word in, gives us the power, we are still in control and can dictate what is or is not done in the name of Christ. Our confession is the key to the kingdom. But when we move from this man centered form of faith in Jesus, and move into this supernatural vicarious faith of Jesus something else entirely emerges. We work with Jesus. We are no longer servants but Friends because we know what the master is doing. Jesus is the one that is doing the realignment of those around us we know that He is working and we come along side and assist Him where He is already at work.
Paul says it like this, “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” Paul is telling the people of Galatia, that it does not matter if you were born a Jew or a Gentile, it does not matter if you live following the law handed down from Moses to mankind or live by the laws dictated by the kingdoms of man. What matters the most is where you are in Christ. Do you live your life on your terms or do you fully entrust all you have to Jesus?
The early Friends believed that you could live a life fully entrusted in Jesus. They fully believed that we could know the will of God in this life as well as the life to come. When George Fox traveled around the English countryside seeking out someone that could speak to his condition he took his bible out to a field and sat there in silence. According to his journal a voice spoke to him saying, “There is one, even Christ Jesus who can speak to thy condition.” At that moment Fox’s heart leapt for joy because after years of seeking he was found. Not by his faith but by the faith of Jesus Christ. Fox then developed his own spiritual discipline where he would withdraw to the silence in prayer and would then go out to preach, or teach. He would go to the inns or the steeple houses where ever he felt he was being called and he would do whatever he felt called to do. He walked miles just to give someone some money, he boldly stood before judges, and in one instance a man was thought to be dead after hitting his head on a branch while riding a horse and George was lead to adjust the man’s skull on his neck and the man lived. (My chiropractor does not seem to think Quakers started chiropractic but I keep trying to convince them).
I speak of the early Friends because they lived fully entrusted to Jesus and they are the founders of our faith tradition, but they are not the only one that have done this. You could look at the lives of many saints; John and Charles Wesley, William Booth, Francis of Assisi, Augustine of Hippo, Ignatius of Loyola, and many other. Each movement that significantly changed the future of the church began by one person, male or female, living fully abandoned to God. Each of them believed that God would show them His will in some way and they would meet God there and assist in the ministry that He had led them to. They may not have had a theological understanding of what was going on but they were justified, or brought into right alignment.
Paul closes this section of scripture with this, “I do not want to nullify the grace of God; for if justification come through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” If all we had to do was follow God’s law that was given to mankind over four thousand years ago then there would be no need for Jesus. Yet Jesus came to live among mankind. If all we had to do was live moral lives of not sinning, Jesus would not have had to die. Yet he suffered on the tree for us. If all we have to do is obey rules, then Jesus would not have rose again. There is more to it all. Jesus lives, He taught a lifestyle with a rhythm to it; worship, prayer, and service. He taught us that man does not live on bread alone but by the very word of God, he even taught us to enjoy life to the fullest but to do so without sinning, or getting out of alignment. We live through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. We have faith because Christ has faith.
As we enter into this time of open worship and communion as friends, I encourage you to consider Jesus. Consider why he came to live among us. Consider why he chose who he chose to live with. Consider why we are even here today and what that actually means. “It is not I who lives, but Christ lives in me.” Paul tells the Galatians. Ask yourself as you, “Is Christ living through you?”