August 3, 2012 - Freedom for Service
By Randy Mantik
Almost every summer when I was growing up, our family went to Spencer Lake Family Camp near Waupaca, Wis. We’d swim, we’d lie in inner tubes on the lake (one year, I about got sunstroke) and we’d play basketball.
Of course, there were the spiritual benefits too. Part of the deal my siblings and I had with my parents was that we could do whatever we wanted to at camp (within reason!) as long as we went to “Teen Time” in the morning and to evening service at night.
It never was much of a problem to get me to scrub up, don my finest (which featured my terry cloth shirt direct from that exotic boutique, J.C. Penney), and head off to the evening service. In my hormonally charged teenaged state, I wanted to go and see what interesting girls might be there.
One evening, I was showered up and ready to go long before my normal time; I could have waited another hour to get ready. My best friend, Randy Christensen, sensing that we were going to lose a whole hour of crucial basketball court time, said to me disgustedly, “What are you going to do? Sit around and be clean?”
That little memory from so long ago comes back when I look at how some things operate in church. We talk so much about purity and freedom, without really expressing what it is all for. Jesus didn’t call us to salvation just to so we could “sit around and be clean” and proudly proclaim, “Praise God, I’m pure!”
I’m not negating purity. I’m just saying there is a higher aim. The apostle Paul identified that purpose when writing to the Galatians: “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. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5:13,14, NIV).
I believe it is a shame whenever Christians gain a bigger reputation for what they don’t do than for what they do. This was inconceivable to Paul. He saw the freedom he had been given by Christ as a wonderful opportunity to serve others. The evidence of a successful Christian life is not how many “taboos” we are no longer part of. It is how much of the love of Christ shows in us.
How is this service for each other rightfully expressed? I think Paul has the winning answer in his epistle to the Colossians: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:12,13, NIV).
The goal of holiness is to clothe ourselves with Christ’s love and compassion. The purpose of our freedom is to use the great love that we’ve been given as a springboard to minister to others. It is to sympathetically listen to others. It is to express the same love to each other that we have so completely and freely been given.
Don’t just “sit around and be clean.” Use your freedom for what it is for. And find the joy of serving each other.
— Randy Mantik is lead pastor at CrossPoint AG in Portage, Wis.