The 1995 film Braveheart portrayed a fictionalized version of William Wallace, a leader in the thirteenth-century Wars of Scottish Independence. Wallace rallies clans and armies in Scotland for the cause of freedom to repel the invasion of King Edward of England. At his execution in London, Wallace was given the opportunity to beg for mercy, but instead he roars the word most important to him: “Freedom!”
In our passage today, the apostle Paul is nearly roaring to the church in Galatia about the importance of freedom. If they don’t understand that they are free in Christ, they risk being “burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (v. 1).
Some in this church were claiming that adherence to the Mosaic Law— particularly circumcision—was required for Gentile Christians. Paul stresses that the core issue isn’t circumcision, however; what is at stake is nothing less than grasping the reality of their identity in Christ. Salvation comes through belief in Him and His work, not through additional works that we do. This belief that our works, whether circumcision or good deeds or even church attendance, are necessary for our salvation is a lie that traps us in bondage.
Christ has freed us from the deception and drudgery of trying to do all the right things so God will love us. We are freed from the burden of insisting that others follow our rules in order to be right with God. That is bondage and death. Instead, we are free to have “faith expressing itself in love” (v. 6). We are free to love and serve others (v. 13). We are free to hope that God is making us righteous through faith in Jesus. Let us keep our focus on what Christ has done, and celebrate the freedom He has given us.
Apply the Word
Notice the close relationship between freedom and love. Only because we are free are we able to love God and others. How can you express this love? Perhaps you could offer a special gift of your time or financial resources to express your love. Or a neighbor might need an encouraging phone call or help with household chores.