Freedom to Sin or Freedom to Serve

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you become consumed by one another!”—Galatians 5:13-15 (NKJV)

In 1941, President Roosevelt envisioned four basic freedoms for Americans to enjoy: freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Pastor Warren Wiersbe said, “But our world needs a fifth freedom. Man needs to be free from himself and the tyranny of his sinful nature.”

Freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. The Lord has put within all of us a desire to be free. Wiersbe says, “We are called to liberty. Christians are free. What Christ did frees us from guilt, frees us from the penalty of sin, and frees us from the power of sin every day.”

However, the freedom to sin is not freedom; it enslaves us to the devil, to others, and to the consequences of one’s own evil desires. Paul cautions that we should not allow our liberty to degenerate into license. We should not use our liberty for evil. The flesh or carnal nature is all the sinful inclinations of fallen man. 

In the Greek, liberty means living as we should, not as we please. This leads us to the commandment in today’s verse: “through love serve one another.”

The formula looks like this:

Liberty + Love = Service to People
Liberty – Love = Slavery to Sin

James 2:8 (NKJV) says, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well.” If we choose to disregard this beautiful command, Paul paints the imagery of wild animals savagely attacking and killing each other. It is a graphic picture to show what it looks like when we don’t love and serve others. 

I have personally experienced a dog attack. I interrupted the family pet hunting in the back yard. Even though the dog was familiar with me, as I approached him, he turned on me and viciously bit me multiple times reacting to natural instincts. 

We, too, often react to our natural human instincts and can be cruel with our words. Unless the Holy Spirit is reigning and filling our hearts with His love, ugly selfishness will reign.

Christ-like love is the ruling principle of Christian freedom. Love fulfills all the laws God gave. It is the key to solving problems in human relationships (Romans 13:8-14). Freedom is found when we are in the Word and when we pray, filled and yielded to the Spirit. Then we are truly free, we enjoy liberty, and we help others.  

DIG: Are you living in the true liberty Jesus called you to? Does it reveal itself in serving others?

DISCOVER: How would others describe your love for people? Jesus said in John 13:35 (NKJV), “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

DO: The Holy Spirit gives you the power to love. Ask Him to fill you. Look for evidence of the fruit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23.

About the Author

Jeff Seward