Called To Live In Freedom
For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another. So let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.
Galatians 5:11-16 NLT
Paul goes Jesus one better, doesn’t he? Jesus said the whole law could be summed up in two commands (Matt 22:37-40), and here Paul says it can be summed up in one! I suspect that Paul means that if we truly love God, we will be able to love others, and that that is the goal of the whole thing. But whether we say one or two, is that right? Is the law about love?
Most of us don’t think so. For most of us, the law is about a whole bunch of demands. It certainly has nothing to do with love. The gospel, on the other hand, is about love, and the gospel has set us free from the demands of the law. That means we are free to do what we want, confident that we will be forgiven. But that is exactly where Paul will not go.
The apostle is thinking along these lines: if we try to use God’s commands as a way to make ourselves good enough for God, our sinful determination to have our own way (“the sinful nature,” or “the flesh”) will always defeat us. We will be in bondage, always trying, and always falling short. But the Cross tells us we don’t have to make ourselves good enough for God; he has already forgiven us in self-sacrificing love. We are free!
But free to do what? Run amok? Live like the devil? Never! Now, having received the Holy Spirit through the Cross, and thus being filled with the love of God, we are free to fulfill the purpose of the law in the first place: giving ourselves away for others in self-sacrificing love. Why do we not dishonor our parents, murder, steal, slander, commit adultery, and lust after the possessions of others? Because God will get us if we do? No! It is because we cherish our parents’ reputation; we cherish the possessions, the life, the reputation and the sexual integrity of those around us. Spirit-filled believers have been set free from their demand to have their own way, and are enabled to care more about others than themselves. They are now free to fulfill the true purpose of the law: love.