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I gotta tell ya. Celebrating the 4th of July right after returning from a week in Cuba is something else. The irony of God’s timing of these two events is not lost on me.
Maybe you’ve never thought much about Cuba one way or another. That’s how I was too.
Experiencing that country firsthand gave me a whole new appreciation for my freedom.
Once home, I saw the following verse repeated many times in my instagram feed on the 4th of July …
Galatians 5:13 NIV: 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.
I now think about this verse on a whole new level.
Make that levels. Plural.
In fact, my head was swimming. Which I guess is appropriate for the 4th of July.
I was wondering what my new Cuban friends thought of that verse.
I was wondering if I had been handling my freedom in the right way. All these years.
Holley Gerth said on the 4th: “We have a lot of freedom in America. Freedom of speech. Freedom to worship. Freedom to do what we believe leads to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And those freedoms were bought with the blood of soldiers. And the freedom Paul spoke of was bought with the blood of our Savior. So maybe today it’s time to pause and remember the highest, best freedom. Love. Let’s worship the God who gave everything for us. Let’s pause in our pursuits and serve the least of these.”
Yes, let’s do that – pause in our pursuits.
If you zoomed through Independence Day without pausing to be thankful, let’s do that now.
If you’ve never given much thought – or more importantly, prayer – to other Christian brothers and sisters around the world, let’s do that now.
This verse in Galatians tells us exactly what to do with our freedom – and it’s not the pursuit of happiness.
You, my brothers and sisters …
I met many new brothers and sisters in Christ while in Cuba. We worked at a Baptist Retreat for young adults. There were three Bible study sessions per day and we each led a small group discussion time twice a day (with an interpreter of course). I must say, we were all convicted by their hunger and thirst for the Lord. You see, they can’t bop over to the nearest Lifeway store and purchase the newest Bible study. They can’t even order one on Amazon. They truly appreciated this learning and growing opportunity. They sat for hours with no air conditioning in plastic chairs and ate up every ounce of preaching and discussion.
Do we appreciate our church services, Bible studies, books, live streaming, podcasts, etc.?
Let’s pause and thank God for all our many opportunities to learn about Him. Let’s not take that for granted! Let’s think twice next time we feel too tired to go to church.
… were called to be free …
My NIV Life Application Bible notes say, “Christ came to set us free – not free to do whatever we want because that would lead us back into slavery to our selfish desires. Rather, thanks to Christ, we are now free and able to do what was impossible before – to live unselfishly.”
Many of my new Cuban friends asked for prayer that they would joyfully step out of their comfort zone and share the Gospel when they returned home from the retreat. I am quite sure it is harder for them to share Jesus than for Americans to share. Yet, do we?
When was the last time we prayed to be less selfish?
Let’s pause and thank God for our freedom to share the Gospel.
But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh …
I liked The Message version of this verse:
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.
Oh – so that’s how freedom grows!
What an interesting thought – in an oxymoron kind of way: serving one another in love is how freedom grows.
Do we do our part to help freedom grow?
Let’s pause and ask God to help us put others before ourselves.
Rather, serve one another humbly in love.
I looked up this verse in The Bible Knowledge Commentary. Check this out: “Rather than being in bondage to the Law or to the sinful nature, the Galatians were to be in bondage to one another. Having discouraged two forms of slavery as burdensome and terrible, he commended another form that was beneficial – a slavery of mutual love.”
Wow. Are we in bondage to one another?
The footnote in the Amplified Bible says: “The key to understanding this and other statements about love is to know that this love (the Greek word agape) is not so much a matter of emotion as it is of doing things for the benefit of another person, that is, having an unselfish concern for another and a willingness to seek the best for another.”
Let’s pause and ask God to help us serve others humbly with unselfish love.
Let freedom ring has a whole new meaning for me.
You too? I hope so!
I will write more about my Cuban mission trip next week! Watch for it!
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