When you hear the word “freedom,” what comes to mind? Perhaps a patriotic image connects or an animal released back into the wild. You may imagine emancipation or the dawn of a new day. All of those connections would fit the word. Moreso, Galatians 5:13-18 paints a picture of freedom with an expectation that leads us to better understand the life God calls us to live.
God desires that we live with a spirit of freedom. However, Paul offers a warning that we don’t abuse that word or misapply what it means. The church at Galatia had been confused by false teachers, which led to legalism. In fact, he correlates legalism to being in bondage. As he corrects their misguided theology, he warns against an overcorrection. In an effort to avoid legalism, it is possible to overcorrect and swing to license.
If you were driving and needed to steer clear of danger, you would want to correct without overcorrecting. Following analogy and for the similar purpose of avoiding more danger, we must heed Paul’s counsel. In Galatians 5, he offers simple thoughts.
- Understand God’s design for freedom. By understanding the power of the Gospel and God’s design for a relationship, we can grasp freedom is “from” sin and not “for” sin. Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection have atoned for our sins, and we are now free from its consequences. This grace is not to be taken advantage of and leads us to abuse His forgiveness.
- Focus on loving others. A way to avoid the self-centeredness of the flesh that leads to sin is to honor God’s desire to love others. In fact, Jesus summarized all of the Law by simply challenging us to love our neighbor as ourselves. This shift in focus puts our attention on helping others and makes us less likely to gratify our needs when we are committed to meeting the needs of others.
- Listen for the Spirit’s guidance. Ultimately our power to live in freedom is not in ourselves. If we rely on our power, we will inevitably be more fleshly and sinful. However, if we trust the presence of God in us, the Holy Spirit will guide and direct us to His play and ways.
Perhaps we overcomplicate life by looking for a set of laws when in fact, it is as simple as following the leader. May we together look to God as our Leader and follow Him as He takes us in the same direction.