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.
Particularly following the first verse of this chapter, this is a very important verse. America was founded on the concept of freedom, with the Liberty Bell and the Statue of Liberty properly enshrined. Slavery has been endemic throughout the world for all of human history, but America is the only nation to have fought a civil war to abolish it. Unfortunately, as has also been common throughout human history, many people have mistaken freedom for license, the permission to indulge in anything at all, and that is exactly what Paul is addressing here. This problem isn’t unique to America! The Bible makes it very clear that we are accountable to God for everything we do, but most of us have very little grasp of how our actions affect others, or how many others they affect. During my college days, “If it feels good, do it,” was the mantra many people lived by, and that started a massive decline in public morality. This verse, and actually on through the end of the chapter, is the answer to that. We aren’t to be legalists, focusing on dotting the “i”s and crossing the “t”s, but we are to be focused on serving God through serving each other. That is the road to genuine freedom and joy. It is the opposite of addiction, in which people become slaves to their “freedoms.”
Jamie Buckingham was for many years the editor of Charisma Magazine, and an excellent one at that. I always delighted to read his insightful columns that appeared on the last page of most issues. I remember one such column in which he dealt with his freedom to drink alcohol. He had been raised as a “tea-totaler,” but friends had said that was legalistic, and he tried drinking for a while. He stopped before long, however, realizing that however well he might handle alcohol, others might not do as well, and he was in a position of influence. He had no medical need for alcohol, as there might be in a place where the water supply was not safe, and influencing others to drink was not kind to them. That is the philosophy I have followed for many years now. As a pastor I don’t focus on prohibitions, but rather on privileges. We have the privilege of not being enslaved to alcohol or anything else! To be honest, very few of the alcoholic drinks I have tried have tasted good to me, and I feel no need of numbing myself, either, so there’s very little temptation. That said, my focus needs to be on serving those around me in the love of God, and not on any particular details.
Father, thank You for the liberty I have in Christ. Help me indeed use that to serve You through serving those around me, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!