Batman's Nemeses, Mick Jagger, and Where to Find True Freedom4
13 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.
If you’ve never watched or read any of the Batman stories, Batman had a wide array of bad guys that would regularly cycle and recycle through as his nemeses: the Joker, the Riddler, and the Penguin were three that often recurred.
Throughout the New Testament, there’s a recurring list of our own nemeses that are set against us and seek to thwart our spiritual flourishing. Three of the most common are sin, the flesh, and the devil. Here, Paul cites “the flesh.”
The NIV has a nice footnote here: “in contexts like this, the Greek word for flesh (sarx) refers to the sinful state of human beings, often presented as a power in opposition to the Spirit.”
Here, Paul opens with the good news: “you were called in order to be free!” But there’s a specific contour to that freedom and a specific shape or quality to it. We’re not free if we indulge the flesh.
If we use the freedom purchased for us by Christ to fuel the sinful state of our humanity in opposition to the Spirit, we forfeit that freedom. When we take the hard-earned grace of God and hand it over to the flesh, we are re-shackling ourselves to the chains of slavery.
So Paul says to the Galatians and to us, “you’re set free from the law and set free from the flesh in order to run in the freedom God intended for you in the very beginning.” That freedom is to serve one another humbly in love.
Where do our freedom and our flourishing happen? When we serve one another humbly in love, that’s where.
This is so critical because the word ‘freedom’ has so many cultural connotations for us that are far from the biblical picture. In America, freedom means (to quote the great philosopher Mick Jagger) I’m free to do what I want, any old time. In the Scriptures, freedom means the ability to actually live as God intended us to and made us to: image-bearers, faithfully living out and expressing God’s image implanted in each one of us—which looks like serving one another humbly in love.
Today, to be in Christ means that we’re set free to serve one another humbly in love. Serving one another humbly in love because we are taken care of and don’t need outside things to prop us up. Serving one another humbly in love because we’re provided for. Serving one another humbly in love because if sin had never corrupted our flesh, that’s what we’d all be doing all day, every day.
What might it look like for you today to set your sites on serving the people around you humbly in love? How might you express that kind of freedom today? What do you need from Jesus in order to do this?