May 4, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Galatians 5:13 (NRSV)
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.
We tend to think of freedom as freedom from something: freedom from oppression, freedom from taxation without representation, freedom from worry, etc. To be sure, the freedom we have through Christ is freedom from: freedom from sin and death, freedom from shame, freedom from emptiness. But our freedom in Christ is also freedom for: freedom for serving others with Christ-like love.
Today’s devotion is part of the series God’s Transformational Calling.
In his letter to the Christians in Galatia, the Apostle Paul uses the language of calling in a surprising way. He writes, “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters” (Galatians 5:13). We might suppose that calling is more a matter of obligation than freedom. Yet Paul is clear. We, along with the Galatians, are called to freedom.
But, we wonder, what sort of freedom? We find an answer to this question earlier in Galatians 5. Verse 1 reads, “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (5:1). Paul writes this because the believers in Galatia had fallen prey to a version of Christianity that required keeping the Jewish ceremonial law (circumcision, in particular). But the death of Christ fulfilled the demands of the law, setting free those who have faith in Christ from trying to earn God’s favor by doing what the law requires. Not only is freedom from the law offered to us, but also it is part of God’s calling.
For the Galatians, the call to freedom was unexpected. Yet, as we think about the freedom to which God calls us, we might also discover something we didn’t expect. In our culture, we tend to think of freedom as freedom from something: freedom from oppression, freedom from taxation without representation, freedom from fear, and so forth. The gospel of Jesus Christ surely includes freedom from: freedom from judgment, freedom from having to earn God’s favor by works, freedom from eternal separation from God, etc. But there is also essential freedom for dimension of the freedom we have in Christ. This might be surprising to us.
Though we are called to freedom, according to Galatians 5:13 we should not use our freedom “as an opportunity for self-indulgence.” Rather, “through love” we are to “become slaves to one another.” The freedom we have from Christ is freedom from the demands of the law. But it isn’t the freedom to do whatever we want whenever we want to do it. Christ did not set us free to indulge our selfish desires. Rather, he set us free so that we might serve one another through sacrificial, Christ-like love.
That’s an unexpected way to talk about freedom, don’t you think? We have been set free, not only from the demands of the law, but also from that which holds us back from serving others. That could be different things for different people. For many of us, however, the thing that keeps us from serving others in love is our preoccupation with ourselves: our needs, our desires, our feelings, our advancement, our reputation. Yet, as Christ is at work in us through the Spirit, we will find increasing freedom from self-absorption. We will care less about “what’s in it for me” and more about how we can serve others. This is the kind of freedom to which God has called us, a freedom to love others with the self-giving love of Christ (1 John 4:19).
How do you tend to think about freedom? More in terms of freedom from? Or do you also think in terms of freedom for?
What holds you back from serving others in a sacrificial way?
How do you experience the freedom you have in Christ?
Ask the Lord to show you how, even today, you might serve someone in the freedom you have from Christ. Then, as God guides you, do it.
Gracious God, thank you for the freedom we have in Christ. Thank you for setting us free from having to earn your favor through our own works. Thank you for giving us freedom from worrying that we are not good enough for you.
Lord, may I live in the freedom to which you have called me. May I be free to give myself away to others, being kind to everyone I meet. May I serve others with Christ-like love, free from self-preoccupation and self-promotion. Set me free, Lord, from all that keeps me from imitating Christ in all I do. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Life in the Spirit (Galatians 5:13–23)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.