The works of the flesh; the fruit of the Spirit (5.13-26) (1/4)
"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 be consumed by one another!" (). The key thought in this text is "through love serve one another." We will examine this phrase in this context.
The Christian religion is a religion of the heart; it literally cannot be forced or coerced! Religious activities that arise from outside coercion are not Christian. With that in view, Paul correctly notes that we have been called to liberty; no constraints can be placed upon us other than those we place upon ourselves. However, this along with this liberty (freedom) comes certain responsibilities. These responsibilities are a part of the "package deal" of Christianity. One cannot properly claim the freedom of Christ without accepting the responsibilities that are part and parcel in the deal.
Having said that Paul admonished his readers to be in servitude or slavery to one another. They were free but that freedom should be used to submit oneself in bondage to others. Herein is one of the great paradoxes of the faith. There are similar ones. For instance, Paul spoke of being free from sin in order to become servants of righteousness (). Freedom in Christ is granted so that we may willingly submit ourselves in servitude!! Those who want freedom without its responsibilities do not seek the doctrine of Christ; they seek and preach another gospel. A paradox Christ calls us to freedom so that we can chose to be in bondage!!
The admonition to serve one another was not new to Christianity; but it was a forgotten part of the Mosaic covenant. From of old this had been God's desire for His people. Moses had written, " you shall love your neighbor as yourself." (). When Jesus stated that this was one of the 2 commandments upon which the law hangs, He went to the very heart of Christian freedom and service! The love of God shapes how we feel about others and the love of one another shapes how we translate that love into action. It is impossible to love God and fail to love our neighbors. John takes this statement to its logical end by saying that anyone who claims to love God but hates his brother is a liar (see ). The same God that said we have a responsibility to love Him also said, "Love your neighbor." Therefore, it is impossible for one to truly love God while hating His brother.
But this principle predates even the Mosaic covenant. The principle of loving one another extends to the bowers of Eden. Adam and all his descendents had obligations toward one another; regardless of one's denial of the fact, we were, are, and always will be our brother's keepers! The denial of this fact is tantamount to rejecting God. Paul admonished his fellow-believers in Galatia to accept the responsibilities that go hand in hand with the freedoms that exist in Christ. To fail to do so is to use liberty to an occasion of the flesh.
The alternative is self-destruction! I implore with Paul, there is a better way love one another!
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