Key verse: Galatians 5:13
Big idea: The freedom of the gospel is the freedom to love.
What does it mean to be free? For many people, freedom is the ability to self-indulge without being stopped. Freedom is no bedtime, no rules and no obligations. You see this worked into our political discourse all the time; I am not free unless I can do whatever I want. But the Bible calls this freedom slavery. Sure, we are not slaves to someone else in this scenario, but we are slaves to a much harsher, crueler master: ourselves. When every craving and lust is satisfied like an itch, we are carried around with the same kind of superficial liberty that an animal has. To look at it another way, if a fish more free in a tank or on a table? In one sense, the fish on the table can go anywhere and do anything, while the fish in the tank has restrictions. But the restrictions are what allow the fish to live and thrive. The appearance of freedom in this case ultimately means the loss of choices.
Paul offers a better way. God has set us free from the Law! We are no longer bound like children to all of the regulations that apply to the outside. But if we think that freedom means that we should now follow our flesh into every temptation, then we have traded a harsh but good master for a lenient but evil one. We are free, but our freedom is a chance to serve, not a chance to sin.
If you parents made your sister share a toy with you, there is some joy in that: you get something that you want. But how much better is it if on the relationship of love, your sister choses to do what she does not have to do? Some marriages are more like business partnerships, with strict divisions of labor by common agreement. But how much better is it to have a marriage where I am free to do what I wish, and I choose to lay my freedom down for the sake of love? Legalism, adding requirements to the Word of God as if they are Scripture, leaves no room for love. Libertinism, saying I can do whatever I want whenever I want, disregards love. Both are failures for the Christian and both are yokes of bondage that forget Christ has set us free.
Freedom means that the way I resist evil is by choosing to walk in the Spirit. Although the flesh may offer me a carrot to entice me to sin and the Law threatens with a stick, the Spirit calls me to choose self-denial voluntarily, not because I must but because I can.
Discussion idea: When was the last time you did something that you got no benefit from, just because of love? What opportunities do you have to do that this week?
Prayer focus: Pray for God to help you avoid temptation by walking in love.