Read Galatians 5:13-26 (read again 13-15)
I suppose that the examples of using our freedom unwisely are plentiful and apply to every one of us. Recently though what has concerned us most is the behaviour of those who for their own pleasure continue to ignore the best medical advice on social distancing to slow the spread of Covid-19. After weeks of advising and urging people the government finally moved to give police the power to break up gatherings of people and if necessary to fine or arrest those who don’t comply or are frequent offenders. The old response we used to give as kids when someone, usually our parents, made us do what we didn’t want to do can be heard, if not literally at least imagined...”it’s a free country isn’t it” . Well in this case if we don’t as a nation use our freedom wisely and endanger others we will lose part of that freedom.
Freedom of will was something God gave us in the beginning but having blessed humanity with everything we needed he called for obedience, which really was a call to trust him when you boil it down. We as a race made the wrong choice, exercised our freedom not to trust God and ended up enslaved to our own desires. Freedom lost! Jesus though has restored that freedom to those who trust in him – Here’s what he said “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house for ever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8)
So that is where Paul is coming from in verse13, but there’s a choice to make – free will always involves choices. Do we want to choose again the things that once enslaved us, not a clever thing to do, or do we choose obedience. If you’re saying to yourself right now, “What’s he talking about???” I don’t blame you. I’m talking about Jesus command to remain in his love John 15:9-10. How do we do that, remain in his love? By keeping his commandments, and that, to be specific, is to love one another as I have loved you, or as Jesus answered on one occasion, “love your neighbour as yourself” (Matt 19:19). So action towards others should be the visible outworking of a new relationship with Jesus when we come to put our faith in him. The deeds should be the proof of faith. So love is more than talk in this sense, it is an act. We act for the best interest of the other person though to tell you the truth, we may not even like them. Who is your neighbour? The person in need!
It was interesting that Boris, from his sick room, commended the population for being neighbourly and caring saying that there really is such a thing as society. Something that’s actually the reverse of Margaret Thatcher’s famous comment in the 1980’s, “There’s no such thing as society, only individuals and families.”.
I was listening to the radio the other day....well it was on in the background which isn’t really the same thing, but the contributor to the show said she was out walking and as people were crossing the road to avoid each other they were at the same time greeting each other in “an old fashioned 1950’s way”.
In an unexpected way, the present crisis seems to have reversed decades of our obsession with privacy and individualism by causing us to look out for others but it was always something believers were called to do with their new “blood bought” freedom in Christ. Loving others in the sense Paul means it here is not romantic or a soppy sentimental feeling, but it is an act of the believer’s will to live in obedience to Jesus, and in that way keeping his command to love one another.