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Perplexing Freedom

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.  But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?…What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me.  Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?  They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them.  It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you,  my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!  I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.  Gal. 4:8-19, 15-20

Paul got fiery sometimes.  His primary goal wasn’t to scratch itchy ears or stroke fragile egos.  When children start playing too close to traffic or approach an electric socket with a fork, our hollar often gets their attention more quickly than our legs can carry us to prevent catastrophe.   In any case, startling the child or hurting their feelings is not nearly as worrisome as what might happen to their lives if their direction toward harm isn’t interrupted.

They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt?  Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”  Ex. 14:11-12

What wouldn’t the Israelites have given to be free from their brutal treatment as slaves in Egypt?  Like the believers in Galatia, they would have “gouged out their eyes and given them”, in response to their blessedness and freedom.  And the Galatians, just like the Israelites, did not remain in that state of celebratory freedom, faithful generosity and self-forgetfulness.  There is such a strong pull in all of us to settle for enslavement to the familiar rather than to run toward freedom in the wilderness.  It turns out, we just can’t believe God will be with us in the wilderness and our misery in captivity isn’t all that bad, after all.  At least the former in known.

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”  Matt. 14:28-30

I will always be more like Peter, looking to my left and to my right, valuing the approval of everyone more than the One who has already said of me, in His Son, well done.  I will be reluctant like the Israelites and Galatians, more willing to believe my fears than the One who casts out all fear.  But He is slow to anger and abounding in love, faithful to complete the good work He has begun, and willing to keep calling me out of the boat and closer to Him.

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