Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Galatians 5:16-23, The Message

16-18My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

19-21It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.

This isn't the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God's kingdom.

22-23But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

This passage really hit me when I read it this morning. I'm definitely going to have to chew on it more, but what jumped out at me first was the description of the "kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time" in verses 19-21.

Every time I read through it, I think, this is insane. Is all that really possible from just trying to get your own way? From just being kinda sorta selfish? I've seen bits and pieces of the truth of it already, in my own selfishness and in others, and it's scary to think about what could really come from it. Very scary.

But the hope of freedom, real freedom. That's something I haven't really wrapped my mind around--can we, really? I've been reading The Shack these past few days, and one of the characters says something about freedom: "Freedom is a process that happens inside a relationship with Him."

I love and hate that. I have this desire to just be able to do whatever I want, to be free of anyone and everything else. Not to need anyone or anything.

But that's not really freedom, is it?

Sounds a lot more like selfishness, which is a scary thought.

So, freedom...a process...found in a relationship...with Him...freedom somehow implying dependence, need, relationship, love. All things that seem the opposite of freedom. Or maybe just the opposite of selfishness, which disguises itself as freedome, but is actually the ultimate slave driver...


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