>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. Galatians 5:13-14 (The Message)

Paul was prompted to write to the Galatians because the believers were headed back toward legalism. Even Peter was embracing legalism. Paul had some choice words for Peter (Galatians 2:11-14). Having embraced the freedom of Christ, it made no sense at all to return to the bondage of legalism.

The allure of legalism is a sense of security. If I follow a list of rules, then I will be in right standing with God. If I violate the rules, then I deserve to be punished. If I obey the rules, I will be blessed. So, here’s the problem: sometimes rule followers face difficult circumstances and sometimes rule breakers are successful. Here’s what’s worse: if following the rules causes me to become self-righteous, then “godly” behavior has led to an ungodly attitude.

An expert in the law asked Jesus: “What is the greatest commandment?” (Matthew 22:35-36). The expert’s goal wasn’t to become a better Pharisee. He was setting a trap.

Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).

In the words of Gomer Pyle: “Shazam!” There are only two rules worth keeping:

Rule #1: Love God with everything you’ve got.
Rule #2: Love your neighbor like you love yourself.

That sums up all of the teaching of the law and prophets. No loopholes. No bureaucracy. No red tape.

According to Paul’s teaching, the antidote to legalism is serving one another. When we focus on the needs of others, we don’t have time to pour our energies into rule following or rule breaking. As we invest in others the allure of sin and legalism dissipate.

How well are you loving others these days? Have you let your friends know who you feel about them lately? Do the people you know have their basic needs met? Is anyone going through a hard time? A call, a helping hand, a cup of coffee might just be in order.

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