You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. (NIV)
1. Paul is clear that in the freedom to which we're called we have decisions to make. We still have compulsions and tendencies to sin. If those are still in us, how do you explain this "freedom" to which we've been called? What is it freedom from, or what does it give you freedom to do? How exactly can you be free if you have inbred sin still in you? (See Romans 6:21 and I Peter 2:16.)
2. Paul admonishes the Galatians not to use their freedom for self-indulgence. He also calls them to use their freedom to serve one another in love. How do freedom and service go together? What is the difference between serving one another in love and serving one another because of duty, compulsion, or guilt? Is it possible for service "to indulge the sinful nature" instead of being loving? How?
3. Paul quotes Leviticus 19:18 when he says that the law is summarized by the command, "Love your neighbor as yourself." This is a quote right out of the Old Covenant. How does getting "rid of the slave woman and her son" (Gal 4:30) transform this command from bondage into freedom?
4. Paul uses an eating metaphor to describe permanently hurting each other with criticism. He says the Galatians will destroy each other if they keep on "biting and devouring each other." The context of the previous verses suggests that focusing on laws and behaviors will make us judgmental of each other. How can freedom make it possible for us to stop destroying each other? What differences does freedom make that enable us to love our neighbors as ourselves?
5. In these verses Paul is changing his tone from explaining theology to explaining how a New Covenant Christ-follower will live. It seems significant that he introduces this last section of his letter by stressing that we are not to destroy each other with criticism. What experience(s) do you have of criticism or fault-finding demoralizing you?
6. Can you think of a time when your security in the love of Jesus sustained you when the people around you were critical and judgmental?
7. In what areas of life are you critical? Whom do you tend to criticize? Why?
8. What resentment or irritant do you need to give to Jesus so his love can heal and fill that irritated part of your heart?
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