Just yesterday we gathered round the table as we do. With windows open, lights on and fans spinning we opened in prayer. Then we began checking-in with the homework (which many had said was hard!). The sharing started slowly but then we got into it.
In general the theme seemed to be that “Yes” we (I) are(am) set free, that God has set us free from sin. Most folks were able to say this — some with more strength and quickness than others, but in general this was named as yes indeed set free from the sin! However, there were questions as to what exactly does it mean to be free as well as a mention of set free from (what) & for (what)? And here was where much of the conversation stayed. Folks were set free by God — BUT, found they themselves got a bit in the way of living free. Also, there was the insight and offering that this was a freedom to choose God — but that’s not necessarily a freedom to do whatever they wanted (just a freedom to choose God’s way instead of sin’s way) — naming though that one is either “enslaved” to sin or “enslaved” to God…but that there’s not that “open freedom” to choose whatever one might want. (There was a mention that hey y’all — sin looks sexy — if it didn’t we likely wouldn’t want to choose it!) And while we’ve been set free from sin & to choose God’s way, there also was the mention of how Paul names that what he wants to do he doesn’t and what he doesn’t want to do he does (in other words, I want to do good but I don’t always seem to do what I want….).
It felt as though there was some frustration here. Being set free — to live as God wants (and still failing). Being called to perfection, and knowing that we don’t quite always get it right. And a beautiful honesty of trying to get there, of allowing the Holy Spirit to prompt us and us wanting to give the Holy Spirit the authority to help us out! And as so often is the case — the scripture we would turn too was even named earlier as something that helps us see the fruit of living in this freedom.
We didn’t read the whole chapter (or book) but we turned to Galations 5:1,6,13-26. It continued the theme of freedom, and begins by stating as those who have been set free to not become burdened again (by/to sin). Now, time (as it always happens) becomes a bit short in our time together (a blessed problem if you ask me!) — but I wonder if we could consider these verses a bit more: it seems that the idea of freedom includes limitations. Verse 13 talks of staying free but not using it to indulge the flesh/sinful nature; verse 14/15 engage how being free seems to include care for (love of!) neighbor — and a warning not to harm/bite each other; and verses 19-26 seem to offer a bit of a framework as to what the freedom of choosing God versus the decision to choose sin will include. What strikes me though is how a free life seems a disciplined life, a structured life, a life that has goodness (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) flowing out of it (by the grace of God). There’s a bounded nature to freedom that I don’t think we often consider. The converse is also true, there is a bounded nature to the decision to choose sin as well. And perhaps bluntly stated one bounded nature promotes and leads to an abundant life and thriving, and the other heads toward death and destruction (even though — both of these may or may not be readily seen or observed).
So where do we go from here in considering our freedom? Well — especially in the body of Christ — we have a freedom to be known (and loved) and to get to know others. AND as Gal. 5:14 mentions, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” it seems (to me at least) that one way that we can grow in loving our neighbors — (and yes, that does include your neighbor sitting at the table too!) — is to get to know more about our neighbors. So — for July (& likely August too) we will be getting to know more about each other through sharing our faith stories. The homework is thus praying and thinking about what you will share as we gather round the table.
Y’all — while I will miss some of the stories — I am VERY much looking forward to hearing about the movement of God in everyone’s lives. I know that it will be encouraging & eye opening & an invitation to trust God more!
In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater