Galatians 5:1, 4-8, 13-18, 25 MSG/CEB
Christ has set us free to live a free life.
So take your stand, and don’t submit to the bondage of slavery again.
You people who are trying to be made righteous by the Law have been estranged from Christ. You have fallen away from grace! Following The letter of the Law doesn’t matter in Christ Jesus, What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.
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.
My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?
Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.
The word of the Lord Thanks be to God
I received an e-mail this week from a baby-sitting service that we’ve used in the past
with a subject line that read something like:
“The 4th of July is coming, so give yourself a little bit of freedom…
…from your little ones!”
Freedom is a term we throw around a lot in this country. We hear it talked about, not only in throw away marketing material, but also in the music we listen to, in political debates,
It is a concept that is so deeply engrained in the core of our identity, something we talk about so much that it can be easy to believe we all have the same shared understanding of what freedom means, at least what it should mean in the American context.
At its most surface level, When we talk about freedom we assume we mean individual freedom.
Freedom to be whoever we want to be,
To live how we want to live,
freedom to say what we want to say,
freedom to worship however we want to worship,
without fear of repercussions, or punishment from our government.
And this is a good definition for us most of the time when we talk about freedom in our country.
But the reality is, Freedom is much more complex than this or any one definition.
It will mean slightly different things to different people.
For example, Freedom means something entirely different and has maaany more layers to someone who has been incarcerated. When someone who has spent years of their life in confined to the walls of a prison talks about freedom… What they mean by it, and how they understand it is entirely different from someone who has never stepped foot in a jail, someone who has never had their freedom restricted.
And Freedom would mean something entirely different from that person than it would mean to someone who is in recovery from their addiction. Someone who has felt their life spiraling out of control, someone who has been at rock bottom and then worked and struggled and relied on others to reclaim their freedom from their addiction.
It seems to me that how we define freedom depends heavily on the experiences of our life. It depends heavily on the choices we make, how we choose to live, and what we commit ourselves to.
So, it should follow, that as people who have professed faith in Christ,
who have “decided to follow Jesus,”
who have chosen to dedicate our lives to following him and learn his way,
who have in baptism, “died to our old life, and risen with Christ into a new life”…
Our faith should be the experience that gives us a completely different nuance on what freedom means. Our faith helps us understand freedom its own unique way…I love the way the french theologian Jacques Ellul defines Christian Freedom,
“The glorious liberty of the Children of God
is not the happy fluttering of a butterfly from one attractive flower to another.
It IS [that] joyous,
but it is also radical, hard, and absolute….
Giving us our burden,
God launches us into an unexpected adventure,
a conflict, which is finally freedom.”
[Jacques Ellul, Ethics of Freedom. pg. 124-125.]
We are freed through faith in Christ, but that doesn’t mean it is an easy, footloose, and fancy-free path of life… Grace does not mean we get to live however we want, … Christian freedom does bring joy, but it is also hard radical work, a burden God has given us that is often at conflict with our world…
So what are we talking about when we talk about Christian freedom?
I think Paul makes it pretty clear:
“Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand, and don’t fall back into the bondage of the old selfish ways of the world again. Make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and so 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.”
We are freed in Christ, but this is not just a freedom “From”... it is also a freedom “into.” Christ frees us from the old, self-focused, ways of the world, but perhaps most importantly, Christ frees us into a new way of life… Christ frees us into a new way of love, into a new way of serving, a new way that is focused not on ourselves but on others…
The author Toni Morrison, once wrote: “‘The Function of Freedom is to free someone else,’
The author Ann Lamotte elaborated on this quote by saying:
“[so] if you are no longer racked or in bondage to a person or a way of life,
Risk freeing someone else.” [Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life]
Christian Freedom is not about our individual freedom it is about our collective freedom together…
We have received grace, but its not for our own life, our own liberty, our own pursuit of happiness. It is a freedom outwards, a freedom shared only in our freeing of others. Christ Frees us so that we can free others… so that we can work for the life and liberty of others, so that we can pursue the happiness of all God’s people. Our freedom’s function in the christian context is so that we might risk freeing others…
I was recently talking with a teenager who was kind enough to share a story with me that really moved me, so much that I’d like to share it with you.
This past year at school, as school would start each day, she realized that every day she passed the same student walking alone down the hall. Most days he looked like he wanted to keep to himself but one day she thought, he looked especially lonely. And seeing someone look so isolated reminded her of her faith… She thought to herself: “if I were him, what would I want someone to do for me? In my life, As long as I am open and listening… I can hear god is telling me he loves and cares about me and I am not alone. But maybe he doesn’t have that, so what might I do, in my life, to show this kid God’s love?”
So, she decided that from now on, she was going to start saying “hello” to him.
And the next day, As they passed in the hall, she said “good morning!” to him, but he didn’t say anything back. The second day she greeted him. He said “Hi” reluctantly but avoided eye contact and kept on walking. By the end of the first week, he was saying hi back and looking at her. By the end of the second week, she knew his name and he knew hers… After a month, they were asking one another how they were doing, before long they were stopping to chat for a moment.
She was a student who was pretty involved, working with many extracurriculars, so one day she asked him what things he was involved in, what things he would do after school.
He said “Oh, nothing, I just go home.”
This answer was unfathomable to her…
“Wait… you’re not in any clubs? You don’t do anything? you don’t do homework with your friends? you just go home?”
“Well, what are some things that you like?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, if a group of your friends came over to your house tonight, what would you do?”
“I don’t know, probably play some board games”
She walked away from their conversation wondering how she could help him plug into some sort of community… and an idea convicted her that she could not shake. She couldn’t sit idly by while her new friend who had seemed so lonely before “just went home;"
she was going to help him start a new club!
And not long after that conversation, these two new friends worked together to develop a new club at their high school, the Tabletop Gaming Club.
It was not one of her interests, she wasn’t a board game super nerd.
But she did it because of her faith compelled her outward towards others, in service and love.
And when she was paying attention outwardly and lovingly… She was in tune with how the Spirit was moving. Guiding her towards a boy who could have so easily been ignored, leading her to a new friendship that would not have been there otherwise, leader her to start a club that would bring other lonely folks together because of a shared loved of boardgames. A club that by the end of its first year counted 39 students and 5 teachers who attended at least one meeting. A club that began because of one teenager’s understanding that our freedom in Christ means something very specific.
We are freed from the old selfish ways of life but Christ frees us into a new way.
We are freed to love and serve others.
Friends, you too have found a specific kind of Freedom through your faith in Christ. May your faith draw you outward towards others… in service and in love. Because it is outwards that the Spirit is moving. It is outwards, in love and in service, that this Spirit is at work.
As the Apostle Paul writes:
“Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, this free life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.”
May it be so… Amen.