“25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith—27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”
During an ancient war a group of Egyptian soldiers were captured in battle. They remained in captivity for sometime, obligated to the will of their captors. In time the soldiers were freed, liberated from captivity by fellow Egyptians. But freedom did not mean the end of obligations. They were once again subject to the will of the pharaoh, who sent them off to resume the battle.
Christ sets us free to resume a life of faith and trust, a life of willing obedience to the One who has set us free. The dynamic relationship of freedom and trust that God begins with us through baptism, God also sustains in our ongoing dialog with God’s Law and God’s Gospel. Where God is concerned, Christ has neutralized the law’s pressure and the guilt\condemnation that pressure creates. At the same time, God’s law continues to expose how we have failed in our obedience to God’s command that we love Him and our neighbor as ourselves, and how we have failed to preserve God’s creation. In this respect the law drives us to Christ and His forgiveness even as it drives into daily life to be good for something.
Our American way of life may reinforce the dreams of the rugged individual but self-governance is a fiction where the Christian life is concerned. Christ has made of us a people created for the obedience of faith, not a loose gathering of little kings and queens, intent on ruling the petty kingdoms of the self. The pressures we feel upon us in daily life to be good for something, to contribute, to care of our neighbor and the world are not the soulless powers of an indifferent universe. Those pressures are the living, active power and will of God at work through His law acting on us and all people. The Holy Spirit and the Word are not casual bystanders.
It may sound surprising but the main characteristic of the life of our Savior was not love or compassion or caring. Those things were there in abundance, to be sure. What the New Testament witness is anxious to report as of prime significance is that Jesus was obedient to the will of His Father. He lived under the pressures and obligations of God’s Law, just as we must. But unlike us, His obedience to God’s good and gracious intention for Him never wavered.
The paradox of the Christian life is that you and I have been set free for obedience, we have been cut loose in order to be bound up again, lifted to our feet only to kneel once more. Martin Luther described it this way; “The Christian is a free lord, subject to none. The Christian is a dutiful servant, subject to all.” Christ’s singular obedience to the Father, for us, resulted in His death and our freedom from sin. At the same time, that “obedience that comes from faith”, according to which we now live, is meant to guide us, to send us back into the battle, in a grateful obedience that seeks to do the the will of the Father. As the Christian attends to the Word of God, our allegiance is directed away from sin and self toward reliance on His grace, which is another way of saying God summons us to resume the primary role for which we were created and re-created in Christ; a free and willing obedience to the Father that is expressed in caring for the neighbor and the creation.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”