By Scott Brown
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Waverly
I met a young man a few years ago who was involved on the front lines of the battle against human trafficking. He was a part of a group that would go in to areas that were suspected brothels and, working with the local authorities, would build the case to bust the traffickers and set the women free who had been kidnapped and exploited as sex slaves.
Women and children are being kidnapped and sold all across the world into this vile, evil practice where they are forced to serve their perverse masters to purchase a freedom they can never afford.
I was amazed as he shared his stories but there was something he said that struck me to the core. He told me how their work of giving these women their freedom was only the small beginning of their efforts. They then had to strive to help the women embrace that freedom and live in it. Many of them had been slaves for years and could not grasp the concept of true freedom from their captors and, without proper counsel and extended rehabilitation, would quickly walk right back into the bonds of another captor.
Even now I can’t fathom how someone, after being granted freedom from such degradation as slavery and sexual exploitation, would turn around once more to offer themselves back to their captors but, in a way, that is exactly what we do when we renounce our spiritual freedom found only in Christ and make any attempt at a works based righteousness through our own efforts apart from Him.
As followers of Jesus, we are set free from the chains that once held us. Jesus has come to our rescue and, at great cost to Himself, He has set us free from the chains which kept us bound to an impossible, never-ending task of paying our sin debt through self-righteousness. The believers in Galatia were beginning to turn back and submit themselves to their captors once more through a form of works based righteousness in circumcision and keeping of the law.
Just as I was to my friend’s story, Paul is flabbergasted that they could turn away from the freedom that was now theirs only to turn back to their captors and willingly put on their chains once more. Moreover, Paul defends himself to them in hopes of reminding them that he is not their enemy but their friend, whom they love. He reminds the Galatians of their previous compassion and respect for him. We don’t know what physical ailment it was that Paul had though many speculate he had some problem with his eyesight.
Regardless, God used this physical weakness that they might have heard the gospel preached by him and see its power demonstrated through him. He was their friend and they had forgotten that. They were not only torn between Paul and the false teachers but they were torn between the freedom found only in the righteousness of Christ and the bitter captivity found in any attempt to establish a self-righteousness apart from Christ. I wonder how many of us today are torn by the same conflict as them.