I was on a retreat a few weeks ago, out on a run…when I crested a hill and saw this sign saying “Free”…

I know this looks photoshopped but it isn’t…I stopped and took this picture. I thought to myself the people here on the lake must really love their freedom! After all, they live in the middle of no where, in rural Alabama…I began to surmise all sorts of things about them from their political ideology to their living in a remote location away from the hustle and bustle of town…I thought I had them figured out when I got a bit closer and saw the context of the sign…

It wasn’t about a political or social ideology…they were just giving stuff away! I literally laughed out loud! I laughed until I stopped to take this second picture. All of the thoughts I had were completely made up…the caricature I had created in my mind was completely fabricated…now, all of those things could have been absolutely true but the sign didn’t tell me that. Who knows.

Paul wrote these words in Galatians 5 to people who were falling into temptations of the flesh and attacking others who didn’t quite see things the same way,

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. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

We have a choice to make every single day – to walk by the Spirit or walk by the flesh. The first brings freedom and the second brings death. When we choose to make up things about people we are firmly in the realm of the flesh. Since we have been set free by God let us that freedom in a way that truly blesses others. Let us use that freedom in a way that doesn’t assume anything about people…or at least if we are going to assume that it be positive assumptions of goodwill and charity.

One thing I suggest is that before you make a comment (either in person or online) think through what you are going to say and take note of which things are things you know for sure and which things are conjecture. Then make a distinction in what you are saying between the two. If you find conjecture, turn your declaratives into interrogatives. You will find the conversation will go much more smoothly in most cases because the other person isn’t being forced into a caricature but is free to have and express their view and be heard. Even if you disagree with them, we at least owe people that much.

Thank God we are free! Now let’s live like it.