Galatians 5:13 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 section from this verse through the end of the chapter is so enormously practical! Paul could be called a theologian, but he certainly never lived in an ivory tower. Throughout his ministry he was “down in the trenches” with those he served, living out what he wrote in this verse. Life in Christ is a paradox in so many ways, when we consider it from a human perspective. Jesus talked about the first being last and the last, first, and said that hanging onto your life will cause you to lose it. (Matthew 16:25) He also said that the truth would set us free, (John 8:32) and Paul stated that “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17) The major thrust of the whole letter to the Galatians is that we can’t be saved by rules and regulations. The problem with all of that is that we tend to equate freedom with selfish license, doing whatever we like with no thought of the impact on others. In this section, summarized in a way by this verse, Paul is saying that is self-defeating and self-destructive. We are indeed free in Christ, but that is freedom from sin, not freedom to sin. The devil tells us that fleshly indulgence is the epitome of freedom, but he doesn’t tell us about the hangovers, STIs and shattered lives. God’s rules are never to bind us, but rather to keep us out of the traps and pitfalls the devil sets for us, using our flesh.
I’ve had to learn this too. Everyone has different areas of weakness. By God’s grace I don’t have any wild parties in my past, but God certainly knew what He was doing when He had me get married at 20, because I shudder to think of how I would have gone had He not done so. Over the years He has taught me the joy of the last part of this verse. Serving others in love isn’t automatic, because I’m as naturally self-centered as anyone else. However, the benefits are immense. There is no greater freedom than the freedom to serve God through serving others. I’ve found that sentence doesn’t make any sense to the “natural man,” but it is part of the paradox of life in Christ. As a pastor I try to teach that truth to others, but I have found it has to be imparted by the Holy Spirit, because merely human logic can’t do the job. That’s why I need to keep myself available to Him, so as to be free to do what is best for me and for those around me, for the glory of God.
Father, thank You for the many opportunities You give me to serve You through serving others. May I rejoice in those opportunities, allowing Your Spirit to flow through me in grace and power, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!