“For freedom Christ has set us free…”
The Christian life is not on one of obligation but of permission. And herein lies a great dilemma. For freedom actually exposes us. And this is something we fear. We actually prefer prefabricated solutions to living. Not because these make us free but precisely because prefabricated solutions protect us from freedom, real freedom.
When that little bundle of unrealized wonderfulness called “Marky” Anderson came home from the hospital, my parents soon realized that I was also a bundle of something not quite so wonderful – stubborn willfulness, intent on having it my way. The game was on! I had to be placed under strict limits and obligations established by my parents because I simply lacked the foundation to engage obligations and freedom responsibly. I was completely free and yet my use of freedom was utterly self-directed. My use of freedom revealed my bondage.This is why, along with all its’ joys, parenthood also placed on my folks the roles of accuser, arresting officer, prosecutor, judge and jailer. They were dealing with a creature who was incapable of managing freedom. It is only as I grew, and learned to live under the obligations of family life that I was released into the wider world and ever-expanding obligations.
The continuing refinement of obligation which begins with parenting and extends into the wider society through law, therefore, is not a process to provide freedom. It is a process which attempts to check the abuse of a flawed freedom. The endless proliferation of laws in this country, for example, is a symptom of this abuse. It tells us, or should, that we are not free, not in the true sense. The same can be said for every people on earth. In this respect every state is – and must be – a “Nanny state”.
So, when St. Paul tells us that “Christ has set us free”, what sort of freedom is he speaking of? It surely cannot mean temporal freedom to do as we will, to simply have the ability to choose among options. Neither does it mean disengagement from life, having leisure time, independent wealth or being on vacation.
The freedom of the Christian is two things at once, actually. On the one hand Christian freedom is the gift of complete and total identification with Jesus Christ. All the benefits of Christ are given to the Christian. Nothing is held back. This is why Jesus could say, “When the Son makes you free, you are free indeed.” We cannot and will not free ourselves. You and I must be made to be free, declared to be free as an expression of God’s grace. And this is precisely what happened to you in your baptism. The fact that so many object to infant baptism, for example, simply reveals the reaction of one who intends to stay bound to self-willing in the face of the terrifying freedom inherent in God’s grace. It’s just too much.
At the same time Christian freedom is total engagement in life. And it must be. For there can be no hiding behind prefabricated solutions for the freedom of faith. And this is what we recoil from. This is what we fear. The freedom God grants is so complete that we are thrust onto the stage of life as “lambs of among wolves”, seemingly unprepared for so great a freedom in a world so bound in its’ pretensions.
The gift of God’s grace which comes from outside of us, therefore, is essential for our freedom and protection. For God’s grace removes us from our bondage to rationality, emotion, reason and will in order that we may use all of these in the service of love, without expectations or guilt, which is the glorious freedom\bondage of the Christian life.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”