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Hagar and Sarah, Galatians 4:21-5:1

Free or Flesh?

Paul uses a familiar (to the Jews) story from their history -- comparing the birth of a child to Hagar, a slave, to the birth of a child to Sarah, a free woman. He describes Jerusalem as like the child born in slavery. They live in a Jerusalem enslaved by Rome. But Paul also conveyed God's promise, that Jerusalem was destined to become like the child born free. A life in Christ is a free life -- freedom given by a loving and liberating God.

In the time of Paul, the reality existed that the free child was persecuted by the child of the flesh -- in other words, Christians were persecuted by non-Christians. If you are reading this, you are likely living in the opposite culture. Most of us are blessed not to be persecuted for our faith. However, living with our faith being the majority, we can easily fall to the temptation to become the persecutors -- persecuting the minority, non-Christians. If we persecute others, are we then truly free? Or have we become children of the flesh, enslaved by our own hatred? 

Narrative Lectionary Text: Galatians 4:21-5:1

Tell me, you who desire to be subject to the law, will you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and the other by a free woman. One, the child of the slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise. Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the other woman corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free, and she is our mother. For it is written,

“Rejoice, you childless one, you who bear no children,
    burst into song and shout, you who endure no birth pangs;
for the children of the desolate woman are more numerous
    than the children of the one who is married.”

Now you, my friends, are children of the promise, like Isaac. But just as at that time the child who was born according to the flesh persecuted the child who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. But what does the scripture say? “Drive out the slave and her child; for the child of the slave will not share the inheritance with the child of the free woman.” So then, friends, we are children, not of the slave but of the free woman. For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.