We have a dog who digs holes in the back yard. She’s a really good dog. But I noticed the other day that the picnic table was leaning. Looking under it I see a neat fox hole two-foot deep and three foot wide. “What? Are you expecting in-coming?” I asked. The dog just wags her tail. I’ll take her for a walk. The man on the corner has really nice grass. No dandelions, ever. “Don’t dig a hole here,” I say. She looks at me like I’m crazy. Instead she lays down on the grass and rolls. I guess this is how dogs scratch that place that itches between the shoulder blades. She’s a really good dog. I ask her, “Why do you do these things? Why do you roll on Ken’s lawn? Why do you dig a hole under our picnic table?” She cocks her head and says, “I’m a dog. I’m free. When I be a dog, I be free.”
Are you free today? When you be a human, you be free.
The Apostle Paul makes a bold statement at the beginning of his letter to the Galatians. He says, “For freedom, Christ has set us free.” In other words, a major reason for Jesus to come into our lives is to make us free. Paul means this first in terms of our inner spirit. How do you feel as you go about your days?
Are you burdened by a sense of shame?
Are you living with regrets?
Are you stressed out with too many things undone?
Are you living the life that someone else thinks you should live, instead of your own?
Remember what my dog said. When my dog is simply being a dog, she is free. When you be a human, you be free. For that freedom, Jesus came into this world. For freedom, Christ has set us free.
The context of what Paul is saying is that some scoundrels have come into the church at Galatia and told the people that they aren’t real Christians unless they do x, y, & z. They had a long list of laws that they thought the Galatians should keep, before they would be considered real Christians. They wanted to Galatians to avoid certain foods, to stop going to the theater, -- and I know this would be a non-starter for me – if you were a man and not circumcised you had to go out and get this unnecessary surgical procedure done, without anesthesia. With all these add-on laws, the Galatians would never be free. Paul says be human, then you can be free.
What makes a good human being, though? I think being compassionate is the key thing. What Jesus showed us was how to be fully human and fully loving, for God is love. The Apostle Paul says it this way: “The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
All Christians are called to be fruitful and these nine words define what that is. All Christians are also called to be free. I don’t think you can be free by following all the rules others have for you. I don’t think you can be free and also burdened by shame, regret, or stressed out. By focusing on the real human traits of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control,” we find freedom. Be this way first – be compassionate – and you won’t have time to be un-free.