BY REV. CLINT LOVEALL -- SPIRIT LAKE FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
As we remember/recover from celebrating Independence Day earlier this week, it is a good time to think about freedom.
Unfortunately in our American context, we almost inevitably think of freedom in terms of our ability and opportunity to do what we want and not be told what to do.
It's a wonderfully American way to think, but it's significantly different from the Biblical notion of Christian freedom, which unfortunately often makes it difficult to understand what we mean when we talk about "freedom in Christ."
In the first verse of Galatians 5, Paul wrote, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."
But freedom from what, and what does it mean that we are free?
Our freedom as Christians is not only "freedom from" -- freedom from sin, worry, painful memories, the demeaning labels of others, abuse, addictions, etc.
It is also a "freedom to" -- freedom to care about others more than self, freedom to set a new direction, freedom to love hard, to love people, freedom to ignore the lies of culture, freedom to make choices that honor God, etc.
Ultimately, we are free not to be obsessed with ourselves. It is the freedom for which we have been set free -- to give our agendas, our worries, and our failures to God and trade them for the joyful peace of loving others in Christ.
Christian freedom is never the freedom to do what I want. It is the freedom to seek what God wants. It is the freedom to follow Jesus in a new direction instead of being locked into the path you are on right now. It is the possibility of reconciliation and healing in our relationships and faithful behavior in our choices, and it is one of the many gifts we are given in Christ. So Paul encourages us not to slide back into the slavery of sin and the yoke of self-centeredness.
We are not to return to such a small way of living once we have been shown the Gospel!
As we celebrate what it means that we live in a country which gives us tremendous freedom, let us be extremely thankful for that blessing and the wisdom, courage, and sacrifice that has secured and protected it. But let us also give thought to what it means that we have another freedom "in Christ." It is a freedom that allows us to seek and travel a Godly path.
It is a freedom that lets us leave behind the mistakes, regrets, and scars of the past and follow a new way. It is a freedom which sets us free of self to love others as Christ loves us.
As we give thanks for being free, may our deepest gratitude be for the freedom we know in Jesus.