“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13).
As Americans, we understand well that our freedoms came at a cost. The fireworks on July 4 aren’t just celebrations; they’re reminders of the wars that were fought in the pursuit and defense of freedom. Our freedoms came at the cost of battle casualties and wounded hearts—and they’re defended by the same.
So how we best guard and use those freedoms has always been a fiercely debated issue in our land. It shouldn’t surprise us that a year of lockdowns, mask mandates, and quarantines has intensified this debate—and often even divided Christians.
There’s a difference between the freedom granted to us as American citizens and the spiritual freedoms we have in Christ, but they impact each other. The freedom we have in Christ guides all our actions. So how do we use our freedom?
Remember freedom’s cost
Paul fought to defend the Galatians’ freedom. False teachers had begun to bind consciences by teaching that certain outward works were necessary for salvation. Paul powerfully preached that our freedom was won by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
Freedom’s greatest value is in its purpose: humbly serving others in love.
It’s good to remember the price that freedom required. It was bloodshed and a wounded body—the life of God’s perfect Son, freely given. When we remember the price paid, we realize how precious our freedom is and how important it is not to let anyone bind our consciences with works of the law.
And when Paul tells us that we “were called to be free,” it’s a reminder that we didn’t win this freedom; God gave it to us in love. That helps us see how to use it.
Rejoice in freedom’s purpose
“Serve one another humbly in love,” Paul wrote. That’s freedom’s purpose. Our first question isn’t “What is someone going to force me to do?” but “How can I humble myself to serve others in love?”
It’s the nature of our world that we won’t agree on all things. People united in faith might have different understandings of world events and different reactions to guidelines, restrictions, and laws. Even for faithful Christians bound together in love, there’s a temptation to make standing up for our personal freedom our guiding principle. Paul warns us of the attitudes that work against freedom. Discord, dissensions, and factions are a product of a life focused on ourselves. If we’re not careful, we can destroy each other. That’s a real warning from God, and no doubt we have seen that play out this last year.
But freedom’s greatest value is in its purpose: humbly serving others in love. As you look around at your family, your friends, your church, and your community, chances are that you see the scars of Satan’s work over this last year: bonds of love stretched or broken, words and actions taken in the worst possible way, differences in opinion that led to divisions in relationships. Maybe others hurt you that way; maybe that’s how you hurt others.
Your Savior didn’t die just to free you from those sins. He died to make you free to help heal. Set your own cares and pride aside. Forgive like Christ. Be humble like Christ. Seek out the hurting and reach out to those who feel unheard or unloved. That’s the freedom and joy you have. God calls you to it.
Author: Joel Seifert
Volume 107, Number 07
Issue: July 201