“From” or “For”?

For Freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

This is the grand opening verse of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, 5th chapter. These are familiar words, and wonderfully inviting…but in regards to this freedom, there are more, and less familiar, a few sentences down the page:

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. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (v. 13-14)

If you asked me what Paul says about freedom in Christ, I’d immediately quote you the first part, likely on its own, without the second. I love this sense of what freedom “sets me free” from. No submitting anymore. I am now very much in control. It’s the verse we often speak, or at least find in our heads, to differentiate ourselves from things we don’t want to face or do. Can you relate?

But Paul’s qualifying and further comments, the less familiar portion, draws different conclusions. I am not set free by Christ simply “from” the law, rules, responsibilities, etc…. but “For”. FOR. For a new purpose, which is to become a servant, to love my neighbor as myself. Our freedom, our new life in Christ, sets us free from ourselves so that we have energy, time, and resources to love and serve others around us. It’s the opposite, it seems, of what I often think and have in mind.

Richard Rohr says this: “God needs to seduce you out of and beyond yourself, so God uses three things in particular: Goodness, Truth, and Beauty.” (The Universal Christ, page 52). The call to freedom for me then is a great tug of war — relentless, new every morning, and begging the question: Shall it be a “From” or a “For” day? Shall I be consumed with my rights and privileges, comforts and desires, or shall I, like my Lord Jesus, let these things go SO THAT I can focus on how to love and serve my neighbor?

There’s no easy answer, at least for me. Rather, it’s a deep desire and prayer that this day that the LORD has made can be a “Freedom For” day.

I wonder what you think?

Peter Hawkinson

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