No Law Against Love

Oratio 47

Lectionary Text:

Galatians 5:13-25

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

For you were called to freedom, siblings; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become servants to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual exploitation, recklessness with our bodies and the bodies of others, wanntonness, and sexual violence, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not partake in the community of God.

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

Reflection:

Happy Pride! I hope y’all have been celebrating your queerness this month, as well as remembering and honoring those who got us here. 2019, as you probably have heard, is a monumental 50 years since the Stonewall Rebellion took place. In 1969, an LGBTQ+ save haven in New York was raided, and became one of the main players in the LGBTQ+ rights movement, when queer people of color decided to fight back against police raids and discrimination at their bar. The Stonewall rebellion soon became iconic, as Queer/Trans folks used their voices to expose the oppression happening to their community. We continue to celebrate this action when we have Pride marches and partake in Pride Month to ensure that queer/trans communities continue to have a voice and to ensure that our gender identities and sexuality will no longer be policed.

Because of monumental events in our history like Stonewall, we now have the freedom as queer folx, to have pride, to be proud of our identity, our family, and our queer belovedness.

“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Paul’s words, while originally directed toward an ancient audience, remind us of both our collective power and our call to action. Paul is speaking to the faith community at Galatia (which is in modern day Turkey), instructing them as to how they are to live. The people of Galatia are a mix of races, backgrounds, and social standing. There are Jews and Gentiles there and they are currently being attacked by outside factions who oppose them and want to divide them because they identify as Christians. Their religious affiliation is being put under attack, and certainly, this is stressful for those experiencing it, those whose core identities are being silenced, mocked, and policed. 

Does this sound familiar? How many times has your own identity, as a Queer or Trans person, felt like it was under attack, like the Galatians? When was the last time you had to think twice before doing or saying something in a church? Or in front of a group of a straight folks? How many years ago was simply identifying as gay decriminalized? How many years ago were we finally given the legal right to marriage? It has not been long enough.

The beauty of Scripture, is that we get to examine what the text meant for both its ancient audience as well as what it can mean for us now. Though Paul’s words were directed at a group of Christians being attacked for following Christ, his instructions and his intent can also be an armor for us today. 

Because of who we are, Queer/Trans and otherwise marginalized by society, we have been given a tremendous freedom. This freedom comes from God, who created us just as we are. And this freedom also comes from those who paid a high price before us, our LGBTQIAP+ siblings, who saw the God-given belovedness in themselves, paving a path we now walk on, by speaking out in sacred ways. 

Paul’s writing reminds us that this kind of freedom is a calling. And with call comes action. 

For you were called to freedom, siblings; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become servants to one another.”

Through love, we have been called into freedom. Through love, we are called into relationships and into service to one another.. We are called to know that the Spirit is working within us, through us, and even in spite of ourselves, to lift up the voices of the marginalized, to name the acts of suffering done in the name of evil, and to empower us towards that holy spirit of pride.

The faith community of Galatia, who were being attacked because of one of their core identities, they were probably feeling pretty defensive. I’m sure they had their guard up, because at any moment, they were subject to abuse and harm for their identity.

And we too, remain guarded because of our experiences. We may check our surroundings before holding hands with those we love.We may be terrified to be out in particular spaces which still will not affirm us. We may remain closeted at work or within our families to protect our jobs and our sanity. 

You and I, we fight these battles constantly, and we get pretty good at it after doing it so often. But, that same armor of freedom can easily turn itself into an armor of self-preservation. And after a while, it becomes hard to separate the moments when we are protecting ourselves, and the moments we are looking for that next battle to fight, even if the battle appears to be among our own.

Our community has been going through some serious infighting recently. If you are plugged into queer Christian Twitter at all, you know what I’m talking about. Because life is messy and nuanced, because we never know the whole story, we see events take place publicly, and we may feel forced to choose sides. And when we choose a side, we may stand among people like us, and also forget that we are also standing against so many others like us. The fundamental manifestation of deliverance and freedom in the community of God's people is loving service, not competitive striving.

We forget the reality that we are all on the same side. We are all fighting for the same liberation and freedom and pride, yet we divide ourselves unnecessarily. We have been taught to keep our armor on, so that we won’t be hurt. But what good does that do, when in turn, we are falling away from our collective wholeness in the process?

Paul’s instructions to the Galatians explain these fruits of the spirit, these nine qualities that you may have learned a song to back in Sunday School. These fruits describe the true armors by which we should be reminded to bear. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These fruits remind us our absolute freedom–– to a freedom of authenticity and community. Since we are given this call, it is our responsibility to keep intact our unity while embracing our diversity, differences, and nuance within the Queer community. 

Beloved, may you know that who you are is beauty and love and wholeness. May you remember that our stories are intertwined, through water, through bread, through ashes. And may you believe that the God of the universe, the one who breathes life into us all, that God calls me and you into a life of freedom and a life of pride. My prayer is that we take an inventory of ourselves and ask ourselves who it is we are fighting? Are we more focused on ripping each other to pieces than we are in carrying each other's burdens in love? Have we lost sight of our true oppressors when we become so focused on criticising one another? What message does this send to those wishing to be among us? Let us be mindful of being beacons of hope rather than a community who shows no grace toward one another. Remember that we are free––and to be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. Let us use our freedom to do what it is called by its God given nature––and that is to love.

Grace and peace,

Erin Green

Co-Executive Director, Brave Commons