The spirit of Religion is an enemy of the Spirit of Jesus. Religion is all about my comfort, my needs, me, me, me! Religion is about doing what I need to do to appease or even control the the good will and favor of God. We don't go to religion serve but to be served. We do good and avoid bad because there is punishment or some other disfavor attached. We go through the rituals and the rites because, somewhere deep in side of us, we believe that we are earning brownie points and God's favor. Most of the spirit of religion is expressed in rules, laws, etc.
Christianity, the religion that developed, around the life, death and teachings of Jesus easily falls into this same trap. As a follower of Jesus, I need to be reminded that there is nothing I can do to make me more acceptable to God; there is nothing I can do to make God love me more. Following Jesus is not about what I have to do to appease God or to make myself acceptable to God -- following Jesus is about living into what God has already done for me. Jesus paid the price for salvation, Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead to make a way for all of us to be able to live life in a love relationship with our creator. That's pretty cool.
In Galatians, St. Paul is doing his best to convey this message to the early Christians. They are struggling because most of them have come out of an environment where the spirit of religion prevails. This is true, whether they came out of the religious culture of the ancient Hebrews or whether they came out of the polytheistic cultures of ancient Greece, Babylon or Rome.
The core truth of Galatians, for me, is in Chapter 3:19b-20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Because Jesus Christ gave his life for the Sin of world and because I have surrendered my life to him, I am now free to live a life free of sin and a life that makes a difference in this world for his sake.
Free thoughts worth thinking.