Freedom is the theme of the book of Galatians. If the teachings of Jesus could be called Christianity 101, then Galatians would be Christianity 102. Martin Luther used the book in his attempts to reform the Roman Catholic Church, and when that failed, to lay the foundations for Protestantism. Christianity was not about rules and regulations. It was about freedom.
The message of the book of Galatians carried great impact in the first century, because it was written to the Celtic people of northern Galatia, in what is now modern day Turkey. These Celts had migrated into Western and Southern Europe from Central Europe about 300 years before Christ, and were a freedom loving people.
Unfortunately, the Roman Empire saw these Celtic people as barbarians and ruthlessly exterminated them as they advanced north on Western Europe. Their culture only survived on the British Isles, where it is still in evidence today. And as anyone who has watched the movie Braveheart knows, (“They can take our lives, but they will never take our freedom!”) they are still a freedom loving people.
Therefore the Celts living in northern Galatia were quick to convert to Christianity when Paul brought the message that we are all free in Christ. There are no rules and regulations. God loves us just because we are, and nothing can change that. But Paul’s message was usurped by some Jewish Christians who wanted to return Christianity to a religion of rules and regulations
Unfortunately, it turns out humans like rules and regulations, and are not enamored with freedom. Why? Because it takes hard work to be free. It means accepting responsibility for your own life, making your own decisions, determining your own direction. And that is not easy. It means learning to be comfortable taking one step forward at a time, because that is as far forward as you can see. It means being willing to sit in the wilderness until clarity arrives, and you discern the direction in which to move. It is hard to be free.
Yet free is exactly who God made us to be. And with that freedom comes responsibility. What is the world to which we are called? What is God calling us toward in our own lives? Where will our freedom take us?
These are the questions we are always encouraged to ask as followers of Jesus. May we find the courage to ask them.