One of the points that the apostle Paul makes in his letter to the Galatians is that Jesus Christ’s work for our salvation sets us free. Rather than trying to achieve some impossible standard or human works to earn eternal life, we are free to accept a gift from God simply by faith. While living the life of faith should cause us to develop wholesome ways of thinking and doing that align with instructions (and even commandments) as they appear in the Bible, it is not the work of doing those things (e.g., commandments) that saves us or grants us eternal life. Christ’s gift does that if we accept it. One way to think about it is that we obey God not to be saved but because we are saved. The gift from God comes first. Thus, we are free.
The apostle Paul encountered two (at least!) corrupt ways of thinking as they related to Jesus’ work and gift to us. First, some rejected it in practice by suggesting that certain rituals or human acts still were required (perhaps likened to “obey so that you can earn your salvation”). Second, some saw the invitation to faith and its freedom as a license to do anything they wanted, which usually meant indulging in selfish and even addictive pursuits of pleasure that often came at the expense of others (perhaps likened to “you don’t need to obey anything”). Paul rejected both extremes and spoke of the freedom we have in Jesus Christ to live by faith, pursue a life of development, and learn what it means to become more “God-like” in our attitudes and actions.
Our Galatians 5 passage reflects those tensions (the corrupted extremes versus the real definition of freedom). Note especially that Paul focuses on loving and serving one another as reflective of faith’s freedom while the corrupted alternatives lead to biting and devouring one another (a quite descriptive picture that any of us who have lived in that organizational culture of bitter conflict and divisiveness understand too well!).
Perhaps the idea of serving one another offers an entryway into deeper reflection. As a leader, do I think others serve me? Or do I serve them? The “simple” difference between those ideas reverberates throughout a team or organization in very clear ways. You know the difference. You have probably experienced the difference among the various leaders you have had. So… Which will you be? What type of organizational climate and culture will you create?
a. What are your contrasting organization or leader experiences? What did you like? What did you not like? How have those contrasts influenced what you think and do as a leader?
b. Do you think of leading as serving or being served? What is the evidence you could provide to support your analysis? Where is there an opportunity for improvement?
c. What is one leadership theme, principle, practice, or source that you studied in the program that you can relate to the contrast between loving and serving one another with biting and devouring one another in organizational contexts?
d. What lessons can you deduce from your experiences and reflection to help you in your current and future leadership roles? In your personal development? In your spiritual development?
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