Eugene Peterson, the writer of “The Message.” begins his introduction to the book of Galatians with these words:

“When men and women get their hands on religion, one of the things they often do is turn it into an instrument for controlling others, either putting or keeping them “in their place.” The history of such religious manipulation and coercion is long and tedious. It is little wonder that people who have only known religion on such terms experience release or escape from it as freedom.”

While history is tainted with abuse and atrocities conducted under the “Christian” banner we are not alone – As we look at current international events we see extremist Muslims using religion to control and manipulate people. Wherever there are people, there are opportunities for evil to take hold.

As we work through the current series on Galatians we are drawn back to the core of what being a Christian is all about –Faith in Jesus and what He accomplished in his death and resurrection. We are warned against adding other things to the core and so judging others as less acceptable or seeking control over them. We are also encouraged to stand firm in this faith and not to allow others to manipulate us or lead us astray.

The grace and freedom we enjoy is not however an excuse for selfish indulgence, rather it is an opportunity to serve God thankfully, reflect His kingdom values, and allow His spirit to produce something tasty and appealing in us.

Eugen Peterson concludes his introduction:

“Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches helps them, and us, recover the original freedom. It also gives direction in the nature of god’s gift of freedom –most necessary guidance, for freedom is a delicate and subtle gift, easily perverted and often squandered.”

Galatians 5:6

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith made effective through love.”

May you know and experience His Grace.

Ken Newlands