Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil;
live as God’s slaves.-1 Peter 2:16
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
As in many passages of scripture, we seem to be instructed to live in a state of paradox. We are told that we are free in Christ and, in the same verse, told that we are to live as servants and slaves. Come again? What lunatic would live as a slave when they are a freed man? The Christian’s life will often feel contradictory. What else could come of living a temporary life in a broken world that has implications for the coming eternal life in paradise? The brokenness of our present situation is tempered by the knowledge of the coming Heaven and results in some strange callings for the Redeemed.
Both of these passages have 3 identical parts:
1) You are free.
2) Don’t abuse your freedom.
3) Use your freedom to serve.
Peter and Paul tell us that we are free. Free from what? We are free from the chains of sin, the punishment of death, and the obligation to try to fulfill every jot and tittle of the law. We can live, not in fear, but in rejoicing that our Savior has taken our debt and paid the ultimate cost on our behalf. We don’t have to fear being stoned for disrespecting our parents or for wearing mixed fabric. We have freedom from that crushing weight. But we are not to abuse that freedom, sinning because we can without fear of eternity in hell. The heart that has been set free is the heart that has been changed and desires the things of this world no longer. We will sin, that is certain, but just as we need not panic and hide when we sin, neither should we embrace nor celebrate our sin. So what do we do with this freedom? We use it to faithfully serve Christ and each other.
A common approach for someone trying to overcome a bad habit is to replace it with a good habit.
Someone on a diet might go for a walk or write letters to friends instead of sitting on the couch eating cookies. This is what Christians can do with their sin. We replace our sin with service. Instead of living our lives for ourselves, we live to follow Christ and serve others. We devote our lives, not to the idolatries of our heart, but to the worship of our Savior. As Peter writes, we should not indulge our flesh, rather we should serve humbly. It’s much harder to indulge your flesh when you’re cleaning someone else’s home or cooking them a meal. You’ll have less time to be distracted by false gods when you’re helping young parents get a break or visiting old saints who need companionship. We can only serve one master and it is human nature to serve something. Will you use your freedom to serve yourself or your Savior? Only One is worthy.