By Tim Frank
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Carthage
As we continue this series on the six building blocks of relationships, we are seeing many businesses, churches and society in general begin to open up and gather together again.
With this reopening and regathering comes a sense of freedom from the constraints of the Governor’s “Stay at Home” order and a freedom to reach out to others in new and fresh ways. As we have seen in previous lessons, relationships are built on love, encouragement, and forgiveness. Today, we are reminded that our freedom in Christ gives us the opportunity to serve others.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Galatia, making it very clear that believers in Jesus Christ are free. In Galatians 5, verses 1 and 13, he exhorts Christians to stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made them free from the constraints of keeping the Jewish rituals and traditions. Paul refutes the heresy of certain Jewish false prophets who demanded obedience to the Jewish ways. The freedom he proclaims is available through their faith in Jesus alone.
In the context of the freedom in Christ, Paul shares three areas in which believers in Jesus are free, areas that provide the opportunity for them to serve others. The first is freedom from sin and being controlled by the flesh (Galatians 3:13). Freedom in Christ is not freedom to sin and do as one wishes. In fact, freedom in Christ is just the opposite. In Christ, one is free from sin, its penalty, its power, and, ultimately, its presence. Romans 6:1-14 provides a deeper examination of the freedom from sin in Christ.
Second, the believer is free from strife with others. Galatians 5:15 warns of conflict in graphic terms, biting and devouring. Though not taken literally, people often have struggled with one another, struggling that has caused pain, suffering and destruction. In Christ, we are freed from the “survival of the fittest” mentality and allowed to love and serve our fellow man.
The third area about which Paul shares is the freedom from self and selfish tendencies. Galatians 6:3-5 is a warning against pride and being concerned only for one’s self. The Christian will find it difficult to serve others if there is a selfish motivation behind his action. Service under those conditions is more often a manipulation of others to gain a selfish result. Paul addresses in this passage the need for humility and cautions not to think too highly of oneself.
As the Christian is free from sin, strife, and selfish motive, he is truly free to love and serve in the name of Jesus. Galatians 5:13-14 is a reminder that all of the Old Testament law summed up as “love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul calls believers to live by that law and thereby serve the needs of others. This is similar to Jesus’ teaching of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37, when Jesus was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” The neighbor in the parable Jesus told was the one who served the wounded man and cared for him.
In Galatians 6:1-2, Paul restates this call as it relates to restorative Christian service when he gives the example of a believer who has been overtaken by a sin. The Christian action is to help this brother or sister in a spirit of gentleness while maintaining an awareness of one’s own susceptibility to temptation.
In summary, Paul writes in Galatians 6:10 to make the most of every opportunity to serve the good of all, especially fellow Christians. During this time of economic downturn that includes the loss of many jobs, there will be many opportunities to do good and to serve. May we be observant of the needs around us and responsive to the will of God as we serve in the name of Jesus.