“Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1, HCSB)
Slavery? To what? What is Paul talking about? Other verses in Galatians show us slavery is a performance-based relationship with God. In other words, like slaves, we have a place in God’s household only because we perform labor. Throughout Galatians, Paul gives many examples of slavish spirituality. Peter avoided non-religious people that might spiritually taint him (2:12). Others thought the Spirit would only move if they maintained a high level of holiness (3:2-5). Observing sacred days, liturgical seasons, and other rituals was also required in order to properly honor God (4:10, 5:3).
Paul tells us not to cow to the façade of sacred authority advanced by the “masters” of slave-spirituality. “Stand firm,” he says; “Don’t submit.” To submit, in fact, is to reject Christ (Gal. 5:4). No one can serve two masters (Matt. 6:24).
We Christians are good at standing firm. Like Peter, we stand firm and protest an increasingly secular culture. We obsess about our behavior thinking that, someday, we’ll be rewarded by the mighty rushing wind of revival. We persist, year after year, in the rote-religion that provides group cohesion and identity in the absence of spiritual life. But can we stand firm in the liberty of Christ? Can we realize that the cross not only freed us from sin but from having to satisfy any sacred code of conduct? (Gal. 2:19-20, Eph. 2:15-16, Col. 2:20-22). Today, Jesus declares our independence from the tyrant of religious expectations. Let freedom ring!