Galatians 5:13-14 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Our bodies are completely selfish. When we give our bodies free rein, they ignore the needs of everyone else and want what they want. That’s the risk of freedom, because if we listen only to our bodies, we’ll end up in a train wreck. We are to listen to our bodies to the extent that we are to take care of them, keeping them in good condition to serve us a long time, but we are not to let our bodies be in control. That’s why Paul speaks so strongly about living according to the Spirit rather than the flesh, in Romans 8:4, 5, and 13 and again in this chapter, in verses 16 and 25. The way we keep track of that is how we relate to those around us, that is, do we love our neighbor as ourselves? God has no intention of tying us up with minutiae, so He tells us to love Him and love our neighbor. That’s why Augustine said to “Love God and do as you please.” If we love God sufficiently, then we will be fully obedient to His law and will allow His love to flow through us to those around us.
This whole issue of freedom has been major in my own life, as it is for every human being. We see people all around us who, in their desire to be free, become slaves of all sorts of things. Alcohol, drugs, gambling, illicit sex and more are all dangled in front of us by the devil as tempting tidbits. We are indeed free to partake, but the result is never good. As a pastor, I am called not only to walk according to the Spirit myself, but warn and assist others in that same path. I am not to run around in accusation mode; that would be completely counterproductive. However, I am to make it clear what the choices, and the consequences, are. If I fail to do that, I am not loving my neighbor as myself. I have experienced the difference between walking according to the flesh and walking according to the Spirit, so I would be less than loving to fail to share that with others.
Father, as always I need Your wisdom as to how to go about what I see needs to be done. Help me be a loving, encouraging guide and not a stern taskmaster. Whether I like it or not, many will get their image of You from me. Help me give them a good picture! May I walk so completely in step with Your Spirit that all of Your purposes for me may be fulfilled, drawing many into Your family and bringing You the glory that You alone deserve. Thank You. Praise God!