Galatians 5 v 11 - 15

It is clear to us that Paul was a theologian of the first rank; he had, however, also a practical and ethical mind and was deeply pastoral. Read Romans chapter 16 if you are unsure about his pastoral qualities. In this paragraph, Paul changes the letter's emphasis from theological to ethical. To Paul, theology could not be a pie-in-the-sky, ivory tower kind of pastime: rightly he saw it as not the slightest use unless lived out practically. It is likely that Paul was writing his letters to the church in Corinth at a similar time to this letter and he is well aware of the difficult balancing act for any individual believer or fellowship to enjoy the freedom Christ has brought without descending into moral anarchy. Paul emphasises repeatedly that this freedom enables us to fully serve God-how can I live a life of selfish disregard for Him when He has done so much for me? Also, our freedom shouldn't affect our fellow humans negatively. In his letters to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 5 v 1) Paul writes about a man in the church living with his stepmother and, with greater horror, that the church was proud of this! The Christian is a man or woman who has become free NOT to sin, rather than to use his or her freedom to do whatever. Again, for Paul, love has got to be the prime motivator. Without that, even Christianity becomes another means of denigrating our fellow human being. For us today, the call to love remains paramount. And how do we love more? Well, firstly love is an action, it is a matter of the will. The Good Samaritan loved the victim of robbery, whereas the Levite and the Priest chose not to love him. To be free to love means also that we constantly recognise our own brokenness. It is an easy pit to fall into when we have been Christians for years, this subtle move of mindset to assuming that we are good people. It takes an act of will to constantly remind ourselves both that we are addicted to sin and that, through Christ's love, we are made beautiful.

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