Love Above the Law: Galatians 5:2-15

[Author’s note: This devotional is basically an email I sent to my aunt. The story behind this is in this post. As such, it’s somewhat lighter on scholarship and more informal than my normal entries.]

Since people are justified by faith and not by keeping the Law, does that mean we’re free to do whatever we want?

Paul gives us a hint when he tells us, here, that it doesn’t matter who is and isn’t circumcised. The only thing that matters is faith that is put into action through love. True faith produces loving works.

Acting out their faith in love seems to be something that the Galatians were really good at! So Paul is very upset that teachers have come in to try to turn them to the Law. Paul has suffered persecution to teach them about grace and faith instead of Law keeping, and now people have come in to undo all of that.

It’s here that Paul gives us his infamous line that he wishes that the people who were preaching the law of circumcision would just go all the way and cut the whole thing off. Once again, not recommended in your typical correspondence. This is like an angry Facebook comment long before Facebook was invented.

But Paul warns them that this is not an excuse to do whatever they want. Instead, they are to become slaves of one another out of love. Because loving your neighbor as yourself sums up everything the Law requires of how you behave toward one another.

This is actually a strong command from Paul. He’s not asking the congregation to be friendly to one another. He’s not asking them to help each other if it’s not too much trouble. He’s asking them to be like slaves of one another because of their love for one another. In other words, any of them should be willing to do anything that anyone needs, whether you feel like it or not, or whether it benefits you in any way or not.

For Paul, if there is a poor person in your congregation, there had better not be any rich people in your congregation, because the wealthy members should be sacrificially giving of their money to help their poor brothers and sisters. If someone in your congregation doesn’t have shoes, you’d better not have two pairs, because one of those pairs needs to go to the person who has none.

This may seem uncomfortable. It may even seem a little un-American. Why should I give up something I’ve worked hard for and enjoy just for someone else’s sake? Why should I put my own welfare at risk to help someone else?

But that’s exactly the point. This kind of love is supposed to stun the culture. It’s supposed to make people take notice of Christians and how they care for one another. It’s supposed to look different than what everyone else is doing. Remember that the Lord Jesus poured out everything for the welfare of the people he loved, even when they rejected him.

Is that what people think of Christians, today? Is that what people think of your church? Is that what they think of you? Do they think, “I’m amazed at how far that person will go to love someone else?” Paul gave this instruction two thousand years ago. Maybe it’s about time we got serious about being known for our love.