“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)
I’m sure you have heard of Stockholm Syndrome. It is defined as a feeling of trust or affection felt in certain cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by a victim toward a captor. It seems insane to us that someone would fall in love with someone controlling, even hurting them. This affects some people so much so, that they long to be back in captivity even after being set free. Psychologist say that it is a coping mechanism based on the desire to survive. It is the reason that many kidnapping victims stop trying to escape after a time. We act like this is crazy but after we are set free by the saving grace of Jesus, we often turn back to the comfort of the sin that used to enslave us.
In Galatians, Paul has built a beautiful case for freedom in Christ! He doesn’t leave it up to our interpretation of what he is saying. He says, “You, brothers and sisters, were called to be free.” That is amazing news, right? Too often, Christians are seen and portrayed as people who are slaves to religious ritual. We are bound to the letter of the law. What Paul says here goes against that thinking. We are called to freedom. He then says, “But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather serve one another humbly in love.” This means that we have a choice. We are free to choose what to do with our freedom. However, it looks like there are two divergent paths.
The first path is to serve yourself. Paul clearly tells us not to choose this path. He wants us to use caution because in Romans he tells us that our flesh can quickly enslave us (Romans 6:16). Like the Israelites who he set free from slavery in Egypt but longed to go back to the abuse and chains when life with God got uncomfortable. We often times long for the security and temporary fulfillment we feel in our sin.
The second path is to serve others. Specifically, each other. Paul’s letters to the early church’s are full of directives on how we are to love and serve one another (1 Thessalonians 5; Romans 12; Ephesians 5; Philippians 2). All of this to say, it is clear that we are to serve people as Christ came to serve us. The best part is that there is a “dirty little secret” of serving. Almost always you are blessed and uplifted more than the person you are serving.
I love how Matt Chandler describes this section of scripture when describing these verses, “Paul wanted the Galatians to see this desire to love one’s neighbor comes from the Holy Spirit. He wanted them to understand that though they were justified by faith alone, this didn’t mean the Lord was sending them out to live in accordance with the desires of the flesh. Rather, the Father gives the Spirit to all those whom He declares righteous through faith in Christ. The Galatians, then, needed to submit to the desires of the Spirit, turn away from the desires of the flesh, and love one another as they bore the fruit of the Spirit.”
So the challenge here is simple: Which path will you choose?
Lord, give me the strength to choose to serve others above myself. Please put people in my path to serve and help me to be willing to do it, when you do. You are the perfect example of serving humbly. Help me to follow your example.