Saturday, February 4, 2012

Freedom to love


It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?
(Galations 5:13-15 The Message)

Have we ever been guilty of doing something not quite so well-meaning, then quickly making an excuse for our actions based on some extenuating circumstance or the behavior of the other?  Probably all of us could answer this one with a hearty, "Yes!"  Whenever we use our "freedom" to do or say something incorrect, we are abusing our freedom.  When we excuse our abuse, we are in a dangerous place.

When we make "excuses" for our behavior, we are simply implying there were "extenuating circumstances" which created the environment for our behavior.  Excuses take the light off of us, placing it squarely on another, or some circumstance.  We want to be "vindicated"!  

Here's the problem - when we seek vindication for behavior declared to be outside of what God desires for our lives, we are asking a holy God to turn his back on our sin.  He simply cannot!  Since God won't turn his back on us, nor our sin, he must see us to the point we deal with it once and for all.  This is the purpose of conviction - it brings us to the place of "dealing with" our sin.

Our writer reminds us of one important thing - love is expressed in our actions.  This includes our words.  Words which serve to cut down, point out faults, or nit-pick character flaws are usually considered to be the opposite of loving.  In fact, we'd call them unkind.  

Learning the lessons of service begins with understanding the extent of love.  Love reached down from heaven, sinless hand touching a sinful heart, and made right what we could not ever hope to.  Love is expressed in God's action toward us - he expects us to repeat this action in the lives of those we are with each day.

Love has many faces.  Grace reflects the eyes of understanding because it has walked the path of the other person's failures.  Peace reflects the tender look of contentment in the midst of the other person's moments of terror and agony.  Justice reflects the gentle smile of one who extends mercy where judgment was warranted.  Yes, love has many faces.  Add them up and you will see the picture of Christ.

God's message to us - learn to reflect the face of Christ.  Embrace our freedom in Christ, stop making excuses for our short-comings, and learn to love others in the same manner he has first loved us.  Tall order, but definitely "do-able" when Christ is the one we keep our eyes on.  Think about it - don't we reflect the actions of those we "hang around" with the most?  Doesn't a child reflect the parent's actions simply by "observing" them?  We can do the same!