While it is probably a little early for me to be thinking about retirement, I still do (as do many, I suspect, who are invited to cake and punch for colleagues who are moving into the next season of their lives). However, I’ve been given good advice over the years that simply “stopping work” isn’t likely to be successful, nor is it good for one’s body and mind. Instead, a transition into something else – whether employment or volunteering; structured or informal – helps retirees to gradually adapt to a different lifestyle. It seems that just stopping something that one has been doing for decades (whether a habit with meaning, purpose, and structure, or even a vice) is quite shock to our system. Without some planning as to what is next, we may founder a bit as we regain our footing after removing something significant from our lives.
In chapters 1-5 of the book of Galatians, Paul has been explaining how going back to trusting the law to save us – after we have accepted the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ – is like going back into slavery. (To be clear, I’m not suggesting that honest work is the same as slavery. God gave Adam responsibilities in the Garden of Eden before sin came into the world and made work more frustrating. See Genesis 2:15-17, and the following verses.) As Paul describes, the law can’t save us, and if we put our trust in keeping the law (believing that it will save us), not only are we enslaved to its rules, but our inability to keep the law perfectly means that it won’t save us, either.
In Galatians 5:13-15, Paul reminds the recipients of this letter that they “were called to be free”.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
Galatians 5:13-15 NIV
Paul reminds his readers that this freedom isn’t meant for selfish, sinful activities, but rather service to each other. He also reiterates for them – and us – about the command to love our neighbor as ourselves.
It is good news that, when someone enters into the freedom of following Jesus, they no longer have to trust in their good deeds to save them (which was a losing proposition, anyway). But, what should their – and our – life look like, in the freedom of salvation? What do we do after eliminating our attempt to earn our salvation through our works, and repenting (i.e., turning back) from a sinful life? What do we fill up our lives with after we drop our fruitless goals and habits?
This answer might not be as simple as it might seem. After all, those who are focused on being saved through the law will still insist that one’s behavior after receiving justification should still look good (in fact, they may say that the behavior of the saved should look like what the law commands, anyway).
And, even those who are saved by faith realize that it’s not fruitful to have everyone who is saved just running around doing things that are contrary to the good example that Jesus set for us. After all, making Jesus not only our Savior, but also our Lord, means that He is the boss: we die to ourselves, and live with the Spirit of Christ within us (see also Galatians 2:20).
In addition, we know that God’s instructions to us (whether in the law of Moses, or elsewhere) result in better lives for us as individuals, as well as communities (including the church) and society in general.
So, somehow we are free from the law, yet we are willing servants of Jesus. When our salvation is no longer based on how well we keep the rules, though, what does that look like? Let’s take a look at that over the next few articles, and love our neighbors in the meantime.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for August 29, 2021
- The Lookout, August 29, 2021 © 2021 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Galatians & Ephesians, by Kenneth L. Boles. College Press Publishing Company, © 1993.