For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
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.
Our main reason for moving to the UK was to give the children greater opportunities than they would otherwise have had in South Africa. We discovered that the move also gives them greater freedom – an after-school walk to Poundland for sweets is a weekly occurrence, as is the daily walk to and from school.
Although our move was obviously life changing, my husband and I were both brought up by English parents, so the culture is not hugely different; and frankly neither is the way the churches worship or ‘rule’, having worshipped and served in a more traditional Presbyterian Church my entire life.
But what is truly life changing is the freedom of movement we have – I regularly walk to and from meetings in the dark evenings, not something done by any sensible person in Johannesburg; the children play in a nearby park with the dog and no parental supervision; something I never would have allowed back in Johannesburg. My 16-year-old daughter walks the dog, by herself, regularly to the beach – no beaches in Johannesburg, but letting her do that alone would not have even been within my parental worldview a year ago!
Freedom is a central theme running through the Bible – from the Israelites being released from physical slavery in Egypt to us being set free spiritually through the work of Christ. Galatians 5:1 in The Message translation of the Bible says, “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So, take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” This passage has a whole new meaning to me – I have always been free to live my life in Christ, but now I can live free physically too. This has brought a whole new dimension to my ministry. I feel that a yoke has been lifted from my shoulders and that physical freedom given to me has a spiritual correlation that will forever change my heart, body, and soul.
Loving Lord, you have given us a “life of freedom” that perhaps we didn’t even know we had or craved for; continue to instil in us, not just the need for freedom of physical movement but the chance to free our souls to know you more, and to remove whatever yoke is keeping us from being free – thank you Lord! Amen.
The Rev’d Ruth Armstrong serves in Broadstairs and Ramsgate in one URC and one URC/Methodist LEP.