Sunday, July 1, 2019

July 2, 2019  

Galatians 5:1, 13-25

Our Savior’s La Crosse

This morning we consider a moral argument as old as morality itself:

In order to be the best people we can be, do we live by a set of laws?

Or do we live by virtue of virtue?

In simpler language: do we need a set of laws to guide us, telling us how to live?

Or is moral life characterized by our character?

The argument was taking place in Galatia. Missionaries had traveled to the region and were telling new Christian believers that they still needed to conform to old religious laws. Paul wrote the church in Galatia, telling them that “Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1). He wrote to the Galatian church, saying “The whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18 as quoted in Galatians 5:14).

Paul wrote to the Galatian church “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).

As Lutherans, we believe the purpose of the Law (meaning the moral codes presented in the Old Testament) is clear, the Law exposes our sinfulness, thus exposing our need for Jesus. And so Jesus came to the world to free us. Jesus freed us from our sin. We know, we still sin; we are no longer slaves to sin. Because Jesus freed us—we are free to love one another as God loves us.

Throughout time it has been clear, people LOVE laws. People LOVE telling other people how they ought to live, throwing laws at them like fast hardballs.

In Paul’s time there was an argument was about circumcision. Missionaries declared to the newly faithful: you must be circumcised. Wham! Their pitch hits the catcher’s glove.

There was an argument about what meats could be eaten. Missionaries declared to the newly faithful: they must not eat unclean meat. Wham! Their 2nd pitch smacks into the catcher’s glove.

There was an argument about when people should work and when they should rest. Missionaries declared to the newly faithful: you must keep the Sabbath holy. Wham! A third ball hits.

“No! No! No!” Paul responds. “Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1).

What laws are thrown in our time?

“They’re crossing the border illegally.” Wham! The ball slaps the catcher’s glove.

“We need to take care of our own first.” Wham! Another fastball.

And Saint Paul quoted Leviticus when he wrote: “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14).

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

“Live by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16) Paul wrote.

The fruit of the Spirit is love.

The fruit of the Spirit is joy.

The fruit of the Spirit is peace.

The fruit of the Spirit is patience.

The fruit of the Spirit is kindness.

The fruit of the Spirit is generosity.

The fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness.

The fruit of the Spirit is gentleness.

The fruit of the Spirit is self-control.

“There is no law against such things” Paul wrote (Galatians 5:22-23).

There is no law!

There is no law because these are virtues; to echo Aristotle, these are character traits manifest in habitual actions that are good to have (Nicomachean Ethics, as quoted in The Elements of Moral Philosophy, James Rachels, 8th edition p. 159).

Roman Catholic Bishop Mark Seitz from El Paso, Texas has been at the center of immigration news this past week because he personally escorted two groups of migrant asylum seekers across the Mexican/United States border, to a migrant shelter run by his diocese. He was quoted as saying during a time of prayer at the border “In the America of today, is there no more Golden Rule? Have we forgotten the lessons of Scripture? Have we forgotten the commandment to love? Have we forgotten God?” (CRUX: Taking the Catholic Pulse “U.S, Bishop Personally Escorts Asylum Seekers Across U.S.-Mexican Border” June 28, 2019).

“Live by the Spirit” Saint Paul wrote (Galatians 5:16).

The fruit of the Spirit is love.

The fruit of the Spirit is kindness.

The fruit of the Spirit is generosity. (Galatians 5:22).

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit” Saint Paul wrote (Galatians 5:25).

 

Amen.