A Digital Refresh – April 24, 2020: The tension between freedom and service

Mini-Yo-We

Today’s reflection is from Pat Sutherland. Pat is the director of discovery camp and the director of discipleship.

Today’s Reading: Galatians 5:13-26

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love
-Galatians 5:13

The Christian faith holds many ideas in a state of tension.

For instance: you may have heard the phrase “now and not yet.” This phrase is connected to the idea that God’s kingdom is both a present reality started in Jesus’ resurrection but at the same time that reality is not yet fully realized. The kingdom of God is then both now and not yet.

And for something to be both now and not yet is an idea full of tension. These two states are not, broadly speaking, compatible and yet we understand them to be true in context. The idea of now and not yet is nuanced and complex requiring us to hold together these ideas in tension.

All of these leads us to Galatians and a conversation about Christian freedom. Here we find another tension: Christians are free and Christians are bound to live holy lives as servants of the gospel.

We are both free and servants.

This tension caused significant tension in the early church and it becomes a topic that many of the New Testament letters have to address. And this makes good sense because freedom and servanthood are in tension. Too much freedom and not enough servanthood and Christianity devolves into a selfish pursuit of our own ends and self-indulgence. Too much service and not enough freedom and Christianity slips into the rule of law and meaningless gestures required by law.

And so it is that we must learn to hold our freedom and our servanthood in tension.

As I read Galatians this morning, I was pleasantly surprised by the framing of this idea in verse 13: do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather serve one another humbly in love.

It got me thinking about how extreme freedom (and the self-focus that follows) kills love and how extreme servanthood (and the legalism that follows) kills love. It is so easy to let either of these positions turn our hearts away from the truth of the gospel: that we are free in Christ and the call of Christ is to take up our cross and follow him in service.

It leaves me with a question:

How is the tension between freedom and servanthood in my own life?
Am I indulging my freedom and losing sight of the people around me?
Am I caught up in legalistic service and losing sight of the abundant life found in the gospel?

My hope and prayer is that you find yourself living in the healthy tension between freedom and service caught up in the overwhelming love of Jesus.

Yours in Christ,
Pat

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