Being set free is only one part of the equation. The purpose of being free is to remain free. In Galatians 5:13-16, the author, Paul, gives insight on how to remain free. First, let’s unpack three keywords that are pivotal to helping us live free.
#1 The word, “called” is kaleo in Greek and means to call someone in order that they may come or go somewhere.
As a Christian, freedom has been declared over your life, but it is a lifestyle. We must follow the ways of freedom if we are going to be free indeed.
#2 The word “freedom” in Greek means interdependence.
We are to live independent of sin. Sin is not interested in your happiness but in your imprisonment. We are not to live dependent on sin for our joy, peace, or happiness in life.
#3 The word “opportunity” in the original text is a much more vivid word than it’s English counterpart expresses. The word means “starting point,” “launching point,” “base of operations.”
In verse 13, we are warned against using freedom as a base of operations for our sinful desires. This is the height of selfishness and leads to all kinds of divisive behaviors. When we put ourselves before everyone else, everyone becomes an expendable option in our pursuit of pleasure.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
Our unshakable, inalienable possession of freedom comes from being crucified with Christ. To be crucified with Christ means we imitate his life. Without imitating Christ, our natural proclivity is to become slaves to sin again.
The prescription to avoid being a slave to sin is to serve one another in love. Paul quotes Jesus when referring to the greatest commandment, which includes loving one another as ourselves.
If we develop the discipline of serving one another in love, we will eradicate hate, inequality, and injustice in our world.
Paul uses the strongest of terms in describing our redeemed behavior by using the word “serve.” That word means a servant of someone who belongs to another. There was no more extreme way for Paul to express the significance of loving one another than instructing us to be a servant to each other in love.
People are not to be dominated or used at our convenience or pleasure but to be served in love. Treatment of people absent of love is out of character for a Christian.
The alternative is, “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” Galatians 5:15
When we remove God and His word from our lives, relationships become expendable, people are objects to be used and abused, and we devour each other. There are no winners, only broken survivors.
This is why Paul implores us to manage our freedom correctly. And here’s the thing, we can’t wait for the other person to change their behavior or agree with us before this can happen. We must take the initiative to serve one another in love. Waiting for the other person to make the first move will only deepen the divide.
Do you want to guess which Greek word is translated as love in verse 13? You got it, agape. It is an unconditional, independent of deserving or reciprocation form of love.
So how do we transform from a selfish way of thinking and living to serving one another in love?
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16
The word walk comes from the word peripateo, and in the ethical sense, it means “how I conduct my life.”
We are to abide in God’s word and walk in the Spirit, not be led by my desires, philosophies, or ideologies. To the extent that my desires, philosophies, and ideologies, encourage walking in the Spirit, we can apply them as a supplement to our thinking but not the basis for it.
When we apply the illustration of “to walk out our faith,” it implies that any other thinking will lead us off the path as we forsake the promises of God.
So how are you walking? Do you see people as enemies to be dominated or as individuals to be served in love? Our freedom is not to be used to judge others but to love and serve one another.
Freedom that’s taken for granted is a freedom that is easily surrendered.
We are free indeed because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Freedom is the open door to God’s peace, joy, and love that will sustain us through every season of life.