After an incredible sermon yesterday on the topic of freedom in Christ and love and limits and knowing the limits of your story and the compulsion of Christ’s love for me, I was reminded of this piece I wrote a couple months ago that I have not yet shared here. So – here you go! And I will return to provide a link to yesterday’s sermon by my pastor once it’s uploaded.
When thinking about freedom in Christ, there is no better topic. Who doesn’t want to live free, with wild abandon and throwing caution and reserve to the wind? I think of my 4-year-old daughters running gleefully up and down the beach or dancing in our living room. There is a conspicuous absence of shame that is envious to us “grown-ups” who obsess too much about our appearance and what’s appropriate. Freedom in Christ is our inheritance and our identity as ones redeemed through faith, and yet so often I do not live free but fettered.
I am fettered to your opinions of me, and so I hesitate before speaking truth in love.
I am fettered to freedom of self ,and so I become enslaved to “me time” and my pursuits.
I am fettered to my idols, and so I give time, energy, and attention to the latest fashion or the next material possession on my list.
I am fettered to my rights, and so I refuse to forgive you for how you’ve wronged me.
I am fettered to fear and cannot move beyond what feels comfortable or manageable to me.
I am fettered to pleasure, and so I use you to get what I want (companionship, adulation, social position).
What will set me free? And how can I know when I am free? The words of our freedom proclamation in Galatians 5:1 come to mind:
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
How many yokes of slavery are you lugging behind you today? Do you realize you have been set free (past tense)? All Christ asks of you is to stay in your freedom.
How can you stand firm in your freedom? Does it mean that you stop attending church, or serving, or spending time with people who drain you? It seems for me that to stay free requires that I remember what I am free to do. Which is to love. The church of Galatia must have been thinking the same thing, for Paul writes just a few verses later in 5:13
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
Paul knows that too often we who try to pursue freedom can quickly become indulgent. I’ve said it myself – “I’m free not to commit to that ministry/those difficult people/that task, so I am going to say no.” There is certainly a place for setting limits – and I’ve had to learn not to be fettered to pleasing people (and leaders in my church) by saying “yes” to more than I could handle. Yet too often, I think of freedom as freedom to do what I want to do.
Quite the opposite of what freedom in Christ offers. His is a freedom to love. A freedom to “walk by the Spirit” and “not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). This is a freedom that looks like the fruit of the Spirit being produced in your life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 2:23). To stand firm in my freedom in Christ is to stand firm in the truth that sin is dead to me in the cross, and the life that I live is lived by faith in my risen Savior – his righteousness that frees me to say “no” to the flesh and “yes” to Christ. Freedom in Christ is “faith working through love” as Paul describes in verse 6 of Galatians 5. If you want to know how free you are, ask yourself how loving you are. When I am set free from slavery to myself and the idols I make out of relationships and possessions, I am set free to love with abandon and delight – with no strings attached. Freedom in Christ looks like freedom to love as we have been loved.