Called to Freedom

Balance is interesting if you think about it. Place the balance point properly, and a large weight can be balanced with a small one. It’s not a matter of equality, as much as it is where the balancing point is at. We see this beautifully demonstrated in Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

Paul spends much of his letter pushing his readers towards freedom and away from slavery to the Law. This emphasis has led some to misapply Galatians into hyper-permissiveness. Paul, however, balances his emphasis with just a few words. Near the end of his letter, Paul writes, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” (Galatians 5:13–15, NASB95) We have freedom in Christ but are to use that freedom to serve and love others.

Part of me wants to write, “that’s it, nothing else needs to be said.” But there is much to apply here. How do we balance freedom and service and love without falling into the ditches of hyper-permissiveness or slavery to the Law? Where are we really at? Are we really balanced?

Let me ask you this. Have you ever taken a full cup of water, I mean a cup filled almost to the brim, and tried to walk across the room? Our temptation is to stare at the cup as we walk. But believe it or not, that is a recipe for disaster. If we stare at the cup, we tend to try to compensate and make the wave action caused by our steps worse. But if we ignore the cup and walk normally with our eyes on the destination, we won’t spill a drop. (Unless we step on a Legos that our child forgot to put away).

When we try to force something into balance, we risk failing miserably. The same is true with faith in Christ. We maintain our balance by focusing on Christ and loving our neighbor. Freedom in Christ allows us the room to respond in love to the life situations around us. Instead of worrying about making a mistake, we focus on loving others through Christ. Should we go to church or help that person with the flat tire along the side of the road? Should we buy groceries for our neighbor who is struggling or tithe to the church? In those cases, all the answers could be the right ones. But as soon as we draw a hard line that one is always the answer, we’ve lost our freedom in Christ.

Paul closes this section with a warning about devouring one another. We can’t love one another and backstab, complain, or stand in judgment over each other. The point you see is not to judge others on their balance and freedom, but to in freedom love and serve one another. It doesn’t mean that we’ll always agree, but that we can respect God’s work.

Here’s the truth. If we live by this – if we strive to focus on Jesus and love others in everything we think, say, or do, then we sin less. Isn’t that the whole point of the Law, to sin less? But instead of focusing on the Law, becoming a slave to its edicts, by simply loving and focusing on Jesus along with truly loving one another, we fulfill the dictates of the Law. I think we underestimate just how powerful our freedom in Christ really is. “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh.”

Dale Heinold
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