"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)There was a time when our free will was held captive under our bondage to sin. We desired to do right but we instinctively did wrong. We knew that, at least to a degree, we had free will be we failed to find the strength and power to exercise that free will for good. Try as we might, sin seemed always to be the outcome. However, in Christ, our bondage to sin has been broken and our free will has once again been set free; free to choose how we shall respond to the message of grace and forgiveness in Christ. Will we use our new freedoms to satisfy the pleasures of our flesh or will we use them for a more noble purpose? Will we use our freedom to continue in our former manor of life or will we use it to chart a new course for ourselves? We have been set free, but what will we do with our new found freedom?
Man was not designed to live as his own master but to live in servitude to one master or another. As that great prophet Bob Dylan used to say, "You gotta server some one!" Paul put it this way, "though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." (Romans 6:17-18) Having been freed from sin, we may (or must) now choose to whom or what we shall attach our lives; having been freed we now get to choose our master. This is the responsibility of freedom; to choose how we shall use the freedoms we have been given.
Paul says that we should use our freedoms to serve one another. The Greek word for serve means to be a slave to or to be in bondage to. We are to use our freedoms to serve others rather than ourselves. While we used to be in bondage to our fleshly lusts and desires, now we ought to chose to become the slaves of the needs and prayers of others; living a life of service rather than a life of self satisfaction. True freedom is not found in getting what we want but in living apart from our own wants and desires and serving the needs of others. To be like God is to want for nothing and to care for everyone.
True righteousness is not found in regard to the flesh; by submitting it to the Law or disciplining it through suffering, starvation, or harsh punishment. Righteousness has nothing to do with how we regulate ourselves, rather it has everything to do with how we treat other people. Righteousness does not demand that we circumcise our flesh, rather that we love and care for our neighbor. So often we make righteousness self-serving. It is all about us and how we constrain ourselves to be righteous. However, righteousness is always directed outward, towards other people. Righteousness is not found when we love ourselves but when we love others as ourselves. If we learn to live in love towards others, then we will find the righteousness within ourselves that we seek.
A community where people live for themselves is a community that will eventually, in the end, consume itself. It is a community that is destined to fail and fail miserably. However, a community where people live for others, where they love others as themselves, is a community that will grow and flourish and one that will always have room for others. To another church, Paul put it this way, "we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:15-16) Let us learn to live together, not looking to ourselves, but looking to others that the Body of Christ may grow up and shine forth His glory to the world around us.