Summary: Through God's love serve one another, satisfy the law, and stop fighting.
A pastor in Kansas City, Kansas, was organizing opportunities for people in his church to do small acts of kindness as a demonstration of Christ's love in the community. He phoned several neighborhood grocery stores and Laundromats for permission to do specific services.
In one call, the employee who answered the phone hesitated, then said, “I'll need to ask the manager, but first, let me make sure I understand: You want to clean up the parking lot, retrieve shopping carts, hold umbrellas for customers, and you don't want anything in return.”
“Yes, that's right,” the pastor replied.
After disappearing for a moment, the employee returned to the phone. “I'm sorry,” he said, “we can't let you do that because if we let you do it, we'd have to let everyone else do it, too!” (Ann Jeffries, Kansas City, Kansas, “Lite Fare,” Christian Reader; www.PreachingToday.com)
How silly. Why NOT let everyone else do it? Wouldn’t that be wonderful if everyone found ways to serve? It would be a little like heaven on earth.
Do you want to find a little heaven in your home? Do you want to find a little heaven in your work? Do you want to find a little heaven in all your relationships? Then learn to serve. It’s the reason why Christ set us free.
If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Galatians 5, Galatians 5, where we begin to see what our freedom in Christ means to us practically and how it can positively impact all our relationships.
Galatians 5:13 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. (ESV)
God called us to freedom, so we could love, not lust. God called us to freedom, so we could serve one another, not be in bondage to our sinful natures. So, since you are free…
DON’T SERVE YOURSELF.
Don’t indulge your sinful nature. Don’t give in to the demands of your baser desires. Literally, do not let your freedom become a base of operations (or a beachhead) for the flesh.
In the early morning of June 6, 1944, 5300 ships carrying 153,000 American and Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France. It was D-Day, and the Allied Forces knew that if they could establish a beachhead at Normandy, they would eventually win the war, and that’s exactly what they did. They established that beachhead at Normandy, used it as a base of operations to push the Germans back, and eventually won the war.
That’s the picture we have here in verse 13. God is saying to us, “Don’t use your freedom as a beachhead for selfish indulgence. Instead, use it as a beachhead for selfless service.”
Leo Tolstoy's story Two Old Men tells the tale of two men, Efim and Elisha, who decide that before they die they must make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. After months of planning, they collect what they will need and begin to walk. After a long day on the road, they come to a village that seems deserted. Seeing a small hut, they look in to see what has happened. They enter its darkness and smell death. As their eyes adjust to the lack of light, they see bodies on beds. With some fear and trepidation, they come close and see that the people are still alive, but barely.
Elisha wants to stay and help. He encourages his companion to go on beyond the village, “And I will catch up with you,” he says. But as Elisha opens doors and windows and offers them food and drink, he begins to see that their needs are more complex than he first imagined. And not only them, but the whole village is suffering. He finds his friend and tells Efim that he wants to stay a little longer. Elisha encourages Efim to make his way on to Jerusalem. “I will find you,” he says.
So one man stays in the village, helping the villagers find their way to health and happiness again. He eventually returns home, never making it to Jerusalem. The other man makes his way to Jerusalem, where he waits for his friend who never comes. Before long he too returns home to Russia, walking across a continent. At one point along the way, he comes to a village that seems strangely familiar to him. And then he realizes that it is where he left his friend – but everything seems very different now. Men and women, older and younger, are busy at work and play; animals are healthy, and the crops are growing, and so he asks, “What has happened?” In simple innocence, the villagers explain that a man stopped along the way and gave them back their life. (Adapted from Steven Garber, Visions of Vocation, IVP Books, 2014, pp. 112-114; www.PreachingToday.com)