1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law…. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control…. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:1,18, 22-23, 25
“To serve God, to love God, to enjoy God, is the sweetest freedom in the world.” Thomas Watson
There are few things in life more debilitating than to live under the weight of “law”. As I consider this “truth” I picture the tragic scenes of people being buried in the rubble of a collapsed building. They are “under” the weight of a structure that has failed them. Usually survivors of such a catastrophe are unable to free themself without the help of others. They are powerless in their own strength to liberate themselves.
So it is in marriage when we attempt to find freedom, self-worth and identity by perfectly keeping a set rules and external expectations. This futile way of life is well defined as the “tyranny of the oughts”. The weight of life remains and we are buried under its mass. How drawn to me would Robyn be if our relationship was based on mere obligation, duty and “law”? Certainly there are times when we must choose to love as the tides of romantic affections have ebbed. But if being in union with another person is solely founded on obligation where is the delight and freedom of love? Joy? Faithfulness?
In contrast, Jesus calls us to a path of freedom leading to the qualities of character we all hope are descriptive of our relationships. The path leads to these qualities. As I allow the Spirit of God to take hold of my relationship the natural outcome will be the production of His qualities.
We don’t get this! Our tree does not bear fruit, so instead of finding the source of its fruitlessness we run down to Safeway, grab some apples, affix them to the tree and believe we now have a fruitful tree.*
So it is when we try and produce any “fruit of the Spirit” without first being rooted in the Spirit; when we seek the gifts rather than the giver; when we seek in our own labors to be more loving, joyful, peaceful, etc., instead of being filled with His Spirit who would supernaturally produce these fruits. Our own efforts result in law keeping. Law keeping never makes us more fruitful but its journey will bury us.
Is a strong marriage really the results of us “trying harder”? The Bible is packed with stories of men and women who tried endlessly in their own efforts to better themselves and yet were entombed by their inability to do it right. The gospel steps into marriage and declares these kinds of efforts have created a “slave system”. In turn, God calls us to emancipation by the ever-present work of His Spirit. “Stand firm then” and do let your marriage be burdened again by the slavery of duty. Instead, live by the Spirit; keep in step with Him and enjoy a marriage released to liberty.
Lord, we habitually seek to function in the power of our own self-will and wisdom. Though we are tired and weak, we somehow carry on with the misguided belief that we’ll get it all together someday. It must grieve You to watch us hobble along when You’ve rescued us from the rubble and have breathed new life into us. May we inhale this breath and may our marital lungs take in the newness of life in You. Thank You for the full access we have to You. In that sacred place we ask for a greater measure of your deliverance. Amen.
* Gary Tribbett