"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." Galatians 5:13 ESV
Here are two memorable bucolic freedom stories from my childhood in rural Monroe County, Indiana. When we were kids, our Grandpa Chambers bought us a pony. The only problem with this poor pony was all his life; he had been trained to walk kids around in a circle. Although he had an acre of fenced-in pasture, his life was a 20-foot circle. While less than 20 minutes from the City of Bloomington, we lived down a gravel road (Will Sowders Rd.) in a pretty rural area surrounded by small farms. Our neighbor Ted Sowders (son or grandson of Will) often had several heads of cows. Occasionally, there would be a break in the wire fence, and we would find Ted's cows roaming up the gravel road looking for new places to graze.
What do these have to do with freedom? First, sometimes in our spiritual freedom, we do not fully recognize the gift God has given us. We are content to continue to live the same old life, perhaps committing the same past sins. Secondly, sometimes we may enjoy our freedom a bit too much. We may abuse our independence, instead of enjoying the freedom allowed us through Jesus' sacrifice, we roam away looking for greener pastures. We think there is something better on the other side of the fence when that fence is offering protection.
In today's scripture, we read we are to use our freedom for the purpose God intended not to pursue sin. Like the wandering cows, we are not to abuse this privilege, and in doing so, test God's grace. Paul writes In Romans 6:1-2, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?" Once we have accepted Christ, we are to turn away from sin, not run towards it. Unlike the unfortunate subconsciously fettered pony, we are to use our freedom to do good and extend love to each other. We have been set free through the price paid for our sins at Calvary. In this freedom, we are to show God's love to others through showing justice and righteousness.
God, we give thanks for the freedom we receive through Jesus Christ and your grace. Forgive us, for when we do not use our freedom, and those times we misuse it. We ask your help in using this independence to serve each other in love. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.