If we wondered in our last reading why only one of the 70 sons of Gideon, the one born to his concubine in Shechem, was mentioned, we now know the answer. The story is shifting, and Abimelech desires to make a name for himself. He is power hungry, in addition to feeling “less” than the others because he is the son of Gideon’s concubine and not one of the wives.
We already know the Israelites are in another period where they turn away from God. Now we see what evil is up to. Abimelech is a good example of how the abuse of power can be used to take over and control a situation.
Sometimes we forget we have the Holy Spirit living inside us. It’s such a perk to being followers of Jesus. Yet, we seem to have this ego or something that wants the recognition. We want to do things our own way and receive approval. Paul would have known this better than most. For years he was a strong Jewish leader. People feared him until his life was transformed by the Holy Spirit.
Now Paul wants to make sure that we, as well as his original readers, don’t ignore the power we have at our disposal. He says, “Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.” Why would we want to smother, restrain, or suppress the power that raised Jesus from the dead? That’s a very good question we should all ask ourselves. Regularly. We have all been gifted our own way of unleashing that power. What, then, is your super power?
Our last reading closed with a couple of those great transition verses. I like 5:25 in particular, “If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” That leads beautifully into what Paul is saying in today’s reading. Right off the bat, Paul gives us an example we’re likely to encounter being in relationship with other believers.
We used this passage in our Celebrate Recovery ministry. It was one of our key verses. It is especially true when you help another with “their” issue, how likely it can be you’ll fall prey to that same issue. That doesn’t mean we don’t help each other. That means we help others equipped by knowing we need to stay strong ourselves. After all, we should all be looking for opportunities to “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”
This may be a passage you want to return to over and over again. It is always great counsel to remember where our power comes from. I love how Paul starts this section. “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” He uses the powerful word “So,” which we know to be like “Therefore.” It tells us to remember everything that comes before it as if it were restated in its entirety before he gives us new counsel. What are we supposed to do now? Let the Holy Spirit guide us. That sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?
We are exchanging the reality of being chained to the law, and the expectations that come with that affliction, for the freedom of the Holy Spirit’s leading. Paul says, “But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.” Cool. The Spirit is not going to lead us down a path that will be contrary to the law anyway. Since we are sinful creatures, the tendency to sin is inside us. When we let the Holy Spirit guide us, imagine the battle going on inside us between good and evil. The Holy Spirit is definitely stronger. When we rely on our own wisdom, that’s when we make foolish decisions.
How would you answer Paul’s question? “Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses?” I’m guessing, that is probably not a question you have been asked before. Acknowledging the Holy Spirit in our lives is key to testing our level of faith, whether we are hot or cold in terms of our spirituality. My question “are you feeling the burn?” refers then to the spark of the Holy Spirit igniting your heart and soul.
Paul is concerned here for his Christian friends in Galatia (and us). He knows that it’s easy for people to fall back into old patterns of living (following the law and believing they are saved by their works). In part, it’s because of the comfort zone effect. It’s what we know. Especially when we start to lose the fire or “burn” we felt when we first believed. We start to think something is wrong or that we should be acting in a certain way to get the spark back.