The Freedom Paradox


… you were called to freedom... Galatians 5:13

The following scripture and meditation were brought to the Thurrock Leaders' Prayer gathering at St Margaret's, Stanford-le-Hope, by Rev Jokey Poyntz on Thursday 18 February 2016. The meditation is by Paula Gooder.

Galatians 5.2-15

Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.

You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth? Such persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. I am confident about you in the Lord that you will not think otherwise. But whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty. But my friends, why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offence of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!

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. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

Real truth can often only be found in paradox. This part of Galatians serves up a great paradox, which requires profound reflection.

The Galatians are free. Christ has made them free. So they are now free to make any choice they want. The irony is that they have used their freedom to enslave themselves unnecessarily to the principles of some who argue that they ‘must’ do this, follow that and observe the other.

IMG19712Real freedom, Paul maintains, can only be found in the choice to be slaves to one another, not because we should, but because we love. Love transforms everything, and if love is mutual, then there is nothing more freeing than acting as a slave out of love to someone who loves you. The vision of Christian community that Paul holds up here is a vision of a community whose members so love one another, so seek for the others’ welfare, that it is the most freeing experience possible to be a slave within it.

The opposite vision that he introduces in verse 15 is spine-chilling – the vision of a community whose members so bite and devour one another with unloving demands and self-centred concern that it consumes itself. As Christians, we are not called to consume one another, instead we are called to the paradox that the greatest freedom can be found in choosing to act as slaves to one another in love.

Paula Gooder


Jokey Poyntz and Paula Gooder, 18/02/2016

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