Notes From the Parish
"Celebrating Freedom in Christ" is a natural theme for pastors around the Fourth of July holiday - hard to resist! Paul writes in Galatians 5:1, "For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." It's worth it to ask ourselves what this means in the context of our lives as citizens of this country and of our Christian lives.
Paul was concerned that Christians in his day would take Christian freedom to extremes, misunderstanding the point of freedom - it isn't freedom to do what we want; it's freedom to be what God calls us to be, and freedom to care for one another. Christians in Paul's day assumed that since they were forgiven, they could simply sin as much as they wanted to. Why not push things to the maximum? If God's forgiveness is so great, then surely God will forgive us, won't He? This complete misunderstanding of freedom deeply concerned Paul.
A significant issue in our country, and maybe in our church, today is connected to a similar misunderstanding and misuse of freedom. Freedom is often understood solely in terms of what it means for the individual, for what they themselves can do or have, without regard for the cost to others or the effect on society (or the church). "As long as I have what I want, others can fend for themselves. It isn't my problem." This attitude, based on a misunderstanding of civic and Christian freedom, pushed to its logical conclusion, results in chaos and self-absorbed ineffectiveness. There is no direction and no hope.
A part of our text for this Sunday (July 7, 2013) is also from Galatians, ch. 7:7: "Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow." This speaks to the consequences of abusing our freedom, but also to the possibilities that come from truly living in our freedom. Paul continues in that section, "So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith."
Celebrate freedom, but do so by caring for others as you are able. It isn't just about our freedom - as a person, state or country - or Christian or church; it is about what we are free to do and to be for the sake of others.
Blessings and peace,