Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:19: “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.”
This verse inspires me. I want it to be true of me. I want to be free like Paul is describing here – free from the fear of man, from an unhealthy fear of what others think about me. I have definitely struggled with this area. And the result is always bad fruit – pride or shame in comparing myself, being easily offended, having my emotional state ruled by outside things. But with the Spirit of God dwelling in me, I know it doesn’t have to be this way! “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). Freedom from the fear of man certainly doesn’t mean refusing correction or refusing to seek wise counsel. God has used people countless times to reveal sin and wrong thinking in my life, and to help me know what course to take. But all too often, I am more concerned with how others view me instead of asking the Lord what He thinks.
In 1 Corinthians 9:19, we see the wonderful result of being free from the fear of man. It isn’t going around totally unconcerned with and unaffected by others. It is becoming the servant of others. Paul used his freedom resulting from the knowledge of who he is in Christ to become the servant of all those around him. And when I don’t get easily offended, and when I am focused on impressing God, it frees me to love and serve people – without expecting something in return, and without demanding perfection from them. Instead of comparing myself to others, I will be free to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14) and focus on becoming everything I can be by the power of God. And ultimately that means becoming a servant, just as Christ “made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7).
In this new year, my desire is to gain greater freedom in this area, and as a result, to become better at serving others. Free to serve. That’s a paradox of the Christian life. Another one is that, in serving others, I find joy and satisfaction in my own life. That’s a win-win!