"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another" (Gal 5:13, ESV).
What freedom we have in Christ! Not under the law, not fearfully trying to please God with do's and don'ts. Free from the power and mastery of sin, free to love God and be loved!
But Paul instructs the Galatians not to use this great freedom to feed the flesh. Sadly, this instruction is necessary. Some attempt to twist the grace of God into a license to sin. We can't have Jesus plus sin. Can't serve 2 masters...
On the flip side of the coin, Paul tells us how to use our freedom! "...through love serve one another." Sounds easy, right? So how are we doing?
This is written to specific local churches in Galatia (Gal 1:2), and for us in our localities. This instruction is for believers in local churches to love other believers in those same local churches, and show that love by serving the other believers. This is where it gets difficult!
It's easy for us to think of serving Jesus, or even serving "the church" (generally speaking). But these are not just words in a vacuum. Churches are filled with real people, with real faces and real names. It's one thing to consider ourselves serving "the church." It's quite another to commit to a local group of people for years, with all their faults & personality nuances, in all the various up-and-down seasons of life; a long-haul commitment to love and serve. This is God's kind of love! It is not easy, and it does not originate in us. It is life-giving, sacrificial and costly. It is not based on feelings or convenience. In fact, apart from the life and power of Christ's Spirit working in us, it is impossible!
Think again of these instructions: "through love serve one another." Now put the real faces and names of the people in your local church family in the place of the word "another." "Through love serve Kim." This gets us down to real faith in action. Do you love the people in your local church? Are you serving them? How are you serving them? Would THEY say your are serving them? Would they say you love them?
Praise God for loving real people with real names...who have real sins. His is a particular love. Jesus propitiated God's wrath from real people, paying the price for definite sins, redeeming his beloved! Now his love is in us. In our flesh it is sometimes hard to love imperfect people. But as we remember how God has treated us at our worst ("while we were still sinners, Christ died for us," Romans 5:8), and as we receive the living Christ in us by faith, God will give us the power to love and serve his people. Praise God!
Let's get to work, by his Spirit...