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13 For you, brethren, were [indeed] called to freedom; only [do not let your] freedom be an incentive to your flesh and an opportunity or excuse [for selfishness], but through love you should serve one another. 14 For the whole Law [concerning human relationships] is complied with in the one precept, You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself. Gal 5: 13-14 AMPC
23 All things are legitimate [permissible—and we are free to do anything we please], but not all things are helpful (expedient, profitable, and wholesome). All things are legitimate, but not all things are constructive [to character] and edifying [to spiritual life]. 24 Let no one then seek his own good and advantage and profit, but [rather] each one of the other [let him seek the welfare of his neighbor]. 1 Cor 10: 23-24 AMPC
We have been set free in Christ. This is true. But set free to what end? To live our lives as we please, doing only what suits us, only what is comfortable? We are deceived if we think that our relationship with God is separate from our relationships with people. They are connected…interwoven even. Because it is only in the testing of relationships that we see our flaws, our tendencies towards selfishness and sin. Only then do we remember how desperately in need of Jesus we really are.
The scriptures are reminding us that within our brand new shiny freedom, still lies our tendency to be selfish and to justify it with excuses. There is no obligation in the Kingdom. God allows us free will. So that when we act, it is a true expression of love. The Bible is warning us about this inclination we all have, to put ourselves first. To make ourselves the focus of our lives.
We safeguard against selfishness by allowing our love and gratitude to God to propel us into service to others. As we think about God’s goodness and all that He has done, the only fitting response is to lavishly pour out our love for Him on those around us in service. The flesh always has an excuse, always has a reason and an explanation for selfishness. As the Holy Spirit nudges us to serve, the flesh will rise up and remind you of all the reasons it just isn’t a good idea. All the comforts you’ll forego, all the sacrifice. But in light of the ultimate sacrifice that was made for us when we were yet sinners, when we were undeserving and unworthy, it should change the way we live. It should move us to a place of sacrificial love for others.
We get so caught up in doing the right things, going to the right conferences, knowing all the right scriptures…and on it goes. But God is saying it’s so much simpler than you think. Stop living a legalistic existence and start loving your neighbor. How much should I love them? How far do I go in this love thing? And God says, “All the way”. Love your neighbor the way you love yourself. Treat them the same way you would want to be treated. Love them as I have loved you.
All the other stuff we do is great. Knowing the Word inside out, going to church, singing worship songs… All of it is good. But what builds our character, what slays the flesh so God’s spirit can rise within us and flow through us to bless a person, to change a community, to affect a city, to reach a nation… That happens when each of us decides every day to step down off the thrones of our lives, take down the posters of ourselves that we stare at, and go show God’s love to someone else. We decide to do the opposite of what society tells us. We decide to seek the good of our neighbors instead of our own. We decide not to live for our own advantage and gain, but to seek the benefit of others above our own.
Start right where you are. Be on mission in your home, in your neighborhood, in your office, in your school… Married people – you sleep beside your neighbor! Imagine a marriage where each person busies themselves acting for the good of the other person! Envision a marriage where you lovingly and sacrificially serve each other as unto God! Many of us find it easier to serve a stranger than a spouse who has hurt or neglected us. But there is no growth in loving someone as they deserve …in giving them their due. Jesus never gave us our due. Jesus never gave us what our sins deserve. Our Loving Father is glorified as we love our neighbors – the ones who sleep beside us and the ones who sleep on the street, as we love ourselves.
Love & Blessings,