Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
September 24, 2017
Faith expressing itself in love
In the 1995 Oscar-winning movie “Braveheart,” Mel Gibson plays the role of the 13th Century Scottish hero, William Wallace. A commoner and rebel, Wallace leads a popular revolt against England’s tyrannical King Edward.
There is a dramatic moment in the movie when Wallace raises his sword and shouts one word – “Freedom!” That word galvanized Wallace’s outnumbered forces into an unbeatable army of warriors.
Freedom has been the cry of the human heart since time began. In every age there have been free men and slaves. One of the great stories of history is that of the Hebrews who lived in slavery to the Egyptians until God, hearing their cry for freedom, sent Moses to deliver them.
In writing to the Galatians, Paul uses the concept of slavery and freedom to teach the meaning of the freedom Christ has given to all people. The primary issue with the Galatians was circumcision. Some insisted that non-Jewish believers should be circumcised. Paul objected, declaring that “when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, it makes no difference to God whether we are circumcised or not circumcised.” What matters, Paul said, “is faith expressing itself in love.”
Paul helps us understand that salvation is ours by grace through faith, not religious “acts” such as circumcision. Christ has set us free so we are no longer “slaves to the law.” In our churches today we need to remember that principle and not allow “outward works” to divide us. Take the act of baptism, for example. Some insist on immersion, going “all the way under” while others are satisfied with “sprinkling.” I think Paul would say, “What is important is faith expressing itself in love, not the mode of your baptism.”
In church we sometimes argue about the proper method of serving Holy Communion. Some insist on kneeling to receive the bread and the cup. Others prefer standing in line to receive the sacrament by intinction, dipping the bread into a chalice. Again, Paul would say “Stop arguing; what matters is faith expressing itself in love.”
Some believers insist that their pastor wear a robe. Others prefer an untucked shirt and blue jeans. Some clerics want the pulpit in the center of the chancel while others insist on a divided chancel. Some people love “traditional” hymn-singing while others prefer contemporary music. It seems there is no end to the list of things about which we can disagree.
The real issue, Paul insists, is love. Ritual is secondary. Love is primary. Differences of opinion can deter us from the commandment to “love one another.” Christ has set us free, free to “serve one another in love.” We must not forget that one sure way of attracting unbelievers to church is for its members to love one another!
People want to be included in a loving fellowship, not a heated debate. If our church programs run like well-oiled machinery while we fail to love one another within the Body of Christ, it will not matter by what method we were baptized or by what method we received the Sacrament. We will have failed in the mission that matters the most – finding ways to express our faith in love.
Praise God! Christ has set us free – to love one another instead of arguing about inconsequential matters until the cows come home! + + +