For most of this book, Paul has been addressing those who thought they needed to turn to the law for their salvation. And while Paul strongly disagreed with them, I think he did understand one of their huge concerns: If we are no longer under law, then aren’t we just free to do whatever we want? If we are no longer required to follow the law, why not just live for yourself? Why not sleep with whoever you want? Why not just do whatever sinful things which bring you pleasure?
And for the rest of this chapter, he addresses those concerns. He starts by saying,
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love. (13)
“You were called to be free!” says Paul. Free from what? Free from the law, certainly. Free from trying to follow the law in order to be accepted by God as his child. And free from the condemnation of the law because we can’t keep it perfectly.
But we’re also called to be free from something else. We’re called to be free from the life of sin that was destroying us. We were living in the pig sty of our own sin. For years, we indulged our sinful nature. What do I mean by sinful nature? I mean a heart that lived in utter rebellion against God and lived to please itself. But by indulging that sinful heart, we made a mess of our lives. We messed up our relationships, we messed up our marriages, we messed up our health, we messed up almost everything if not everything in our lives.
But Christ died to set us free from all that. He gave us “heart surgery,” removing our heart of stone and giving us a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26) In other words, instead of having a heart of rebellion that was utterly hardened toward God, Jesus gave us a new heart that was soft and responsive to him. And as we follow him, he leads us into freedom from all the sins that were destroying us.
Still there are remnants of that old heart or sinful nature within us, the habits and attitudes that were formed while we were under its control. And those are things we’ll be fighting for the rest of our lives. But Paul says don’t give into them. More importantly, don’t indulge yourself in those old habits and attitudes. Why go back to the pig sty in which you were so miserable when you were set free from that?
Instead, Paul says, “Serve one another in love.” Do you want the joy that comes from the freedom you have gained from the law and from sin? Then start serving others in love. As you revel in the love God has for you, start sharing that love with those around you. We were designed to have relationships in which we bless each other with the blessings we have received from God. That’s what brings us joy, not going back to the pig sty.
Paul then says,
The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (14)
In short, “Are you worried about keeping the law? If you’re using your freedom as you should, to serve others, and not yourself, you will fulfill the law.”
On the other hand, if we insist on going back to the pig sty, Paul warns,
If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. (15)
How about you? Have you found the joy that comes from the freedom Christ has given you? Or are you going back to the pig sty? Which will you choose?