“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
“You’re not the boss of me!” If we haven’t heard this exact quote from a child we have certainly witnessed the expression of the sentiment behind it. Sometimes ironically, as when a child says it to someone who actually is their “boss”, say, a parent. But often it is expressed toward someone they feel has not been granted, or earned, a place of authority over them. One of the many fascinating things with kids is the lack of verbal filtering – they say what they feel. Truth is all of us struggle to some degree with submission to others, we just are more polite about it most of the time. As we are going through Galatians we are seeing the power of Christian life through the lens of gospel freedom. We consistently see how Gospel freedom cuts across the grain of what our culture considers freedom. In this Sunday’s passage we are first reminded that gospel, or Christian, freedom is not an opportunity for self advancement (an “opportunity for the flesh”), but rather an opportunity to “serve one another”.
To “serve one another” is interesting for the verb serve, douleuete, is formed from the word doulos which means slave. We are called to be slaves to one another; to yield to others, submit to others, do the bidding of others, meet the needs of others – and to do so in love. This is no easy calling, for we don’t like to be thought of as slaves or servants of others. Oh, we may serve some people to a certain degree, like our employers or even those who have earned a place of respect in our minds, but can we truly say we serve in these cases out of love? And it is even harder for us to serve our “equals”. The bible does not limit our service to those we “owe” it to, like employers, or those we respect.
It’s easiest to think about Christian service as serving God, as He is our sovereign King, our saviour, and so clearly our superior. But we are called to be “servants of all (Mark 9:35)”. It would be easier if it were more like volunteering, because this is something we initiate and control. For example, we can decide to show hospitality and serve another a meal. But again, the sense of serving one another implies a laying down of one’s life, and our control thereof, for the benefit of others. This is reaffirmed in many scriptures: “Do nothing form rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)”; “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)”; and “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).” Jesus “came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45)”. And he “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7).” He also said, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you. (John 20:21)” So, serving others didn’t end because Jesus happened to have perfected the practice! He sends, and empowers, his followers to go and do likewise.
Serving the church is not always easy because we see it warts and all. It is not always beautiful or easily loved. The church’s imperfections, a reflection of course of our own, can challenge us and discourage our serving. May I encourage you to see us, the church, as Christ sees us: with a beauty that reflects his own. We are beautiful because of what we are in Christ, and we love what he loves!
As we gather for Sunday worship, we want you to meet with God and be transformed by the Word. Prepare your heart by reading the passage and listening to the songs for Sunday.