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Now days it seems like freedom is not usually associated by the secular world with religion. Between radical fundamentalist terrorists who give their life for a promise, to strict moral teachings, from compulsory attendance to dogmas, many people would ask how freedom relates to belief in a higher being. Galatians was a letter of pastoral advice written by the Apostle Paul to the church communities of the ancient area called Galatia in the Roman Empire (today we’d call it southern Turkey).
Paul is angry and doesn’t hide it. In the early life of the Church there was great tension along religious, cultural and ethnic lines. Jesus was a Jew, the best Jew according to his followers. But those who followed him came to be called “the people of the Way,” and later Christians. So two divergent opinions arose about what it meant to be a Christian: one was that to follow Jesus you had to first become a Jews (meaning to be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses), the second opinion was that you didn’t need that step, you could go from being a pagan, or non-Jew, to a Christian merely by confessing that Jesus was your teacher and master (and so you wouldn’t be circumcised or follow the Laws of Moses). This debate seems foreign and insubstantial to us, yet the question remains today what kind of life do you have to live if you follow Jesus?
Paul writes about freedom – that freedom is following Christ, that freedom is found in knowing Christ, that freedom can only be known in following Christ, that freedom is a gift, not earned or deserved, but simply received. The Galatians have received the Spirit of God not because of their ethnicity, religious background, cultural identity or spiritual pedigree, it’s because of they have received the gospel in faith.
This receiving is related to gifts, Paul uses fruit – the fruits of the Spirit – as an example. How does fruit grow? How do you produce much fruit on a tree or in a garden? How do you stunt such production?
Questions for reflection: