On the 11th September 1297, the Scottish troops gathered at the Stirling Bridge to go into battle against the formidable English Army. The Scots are led by William Wallace, and the story is retold in the 1995 movie, Braveheart.
In arguably the most memorable scene of the movie, William Wallace (Mel Gibson) addresses his troops with these words, “I am William Wallace. And I see a whole army of my countrymen here in defiance of tyranny. You have come to fight as free men, and free men you are. What would you do without freedom? Will you fight?”
History tells us they did fight. Whether or not the words in the movie reflect the actual words of William Wallace, the sentiment expressed is an important one. Freedom is worth fighting for.
In Galatians, Paul is prepared to fight against tyranny himself. The tyranny of sin, death, and condemnation. Paul fights for the truth of the gospel, where we are free from to know God and live life with Him.
Paul understands that such an argument is not an abstract theological debate, but one which impacts the lives of those around him. Recounting a previous trip to Jerusalem, Paul spoke of his fellow travellers, Barnabas the Jew, and Titus the Gentile. The latter’s faith was evident to all, and yet he had not been circumcised, nor embraced Jewish ceremonial law. Paul knew the gospel did not require this of him, a view which the leaders at Jerusalem supported, yet there were other influential people in the church who thought otherwise.
It was this difference of opinion which undergirds the conflict in the book of Galatians. Paul’s opponents felt the full gospel included adopting Jewish culture and laws, after all, it’s what they knew, what they were comfortable with and where their identity was found. It reflected how they had related to God their entire lives.
This is an easy trap to fall into. To make “real” Christianity about what I know, what I am comfortable with, or where I have got my identity from. It isn’t just a Jewish problem. How many Western missionaries throughout history tried to make indigenous peoples engage faith in a Western way?
Yet, what they failed to understand is they were adding to the gospel. Paul reminds us we need to be people who are driven by the gospel – full stop. To be people who do not confuse context or preference for the gospel.
The gospel is not about what we like, our culture, or what we know. It’s about liberating the Barnabas, and the Titus from the condemnation of sin, and death.
The freedom of the gospel is to remember that anyone who God has accepted freely, plus nothing, we must accept freely, plus nothing.
The gospel is not about enslaving us to law, or preference, or rules, or religion, but to set us free. To set the Barnabas and the Titus free from the consequences of sin, free from death, from fear and condemnation, so that they are free to know and live this life with God, that as Paul reminds us, is worth fighting for.