"If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you." - Jesus
Who the Son sets free is free indeed! I so love this scripture from John 8. Christian freedom has been long explored, taught and preached and yet, it still seems elusive for so many. Quite obviously, the freedom we have in Christ is freedom from the eternal consequences of sin. Freedom to be reconciled to God, freedom of becoming a new creation, freedom to forgive and freedom to love are just a few examples. Sadly, though, while we are free from the eternal consequences of our human brokenness, the reality remains that there are here-and-now consequences for our choices and actions - healthy or otherwise. We are also affected by other people's actions and choices - healthy or unhealthy. Along with these, we are not immune to sickness and natural disasters. This rosy bit of insight serves to help us to start to think about the ramifications of the freedom we have in Christ in real, everyday life. Here are a few thoughts on freedom for your reflection.
It is important to realize that freedom in general and especially Christian freedom is not about a problem free life. It is not some magical situation that when you say the Sinners Prayer everything in your life that was tough is suddenly perfect. It is a great start to making better choices, but these don't guarantee a hassle free life. Freedom in Christ is the freedom to make freer choices and live with the consequences of our freer choices. Furthermore, we can experience the freedom to not only make our own better decisions but how we respond to those choices of others and situations which are out of our control. Even in these situations, we have the freedom to choose.
There are situations in life where we choose to limit certain freedoms to enjoy other freedoms. For example, there is a particular kind of freedom within a healthy marriage. However, in choosing to be married, we surrender our freedom to make other choices. Likewise, for the sake of love, we choose to limit our freedom, especially if that freedom will cause another to struggle.
So in a very simple way, freedom is a state that we can experience a sense of freedom in all situations. In the surety of Christ, regardless of the situation, we are secure in the love of God. No matter what happens - life or death - nothing can separate us from that love. This being the case, we become free to make some of the free-est choices. These choices include the choice to live love; to serve others, to prefer others over ourselves, to lay down our lives down for others - figuratively or literally. To choose to use our freedom to stand against injustice and this may cause us discomfort, and it may cost some of us our lives. We can be free in doing so because we
know death is not the end.
The Apostle Paul would say to the Church in Philippi:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. ~ Philippians 4: 11-13
Paul has learned that it is in what Christ has done; reconciled and irrevocably connected us to the Father in a way that brings a deep satisfaction and freedom at the deepest level. That in Christ all of our deep longings and desires at the core of who we are, are satisfied. C.S Lewis talks about a God-shaped hole in us - in Christ, we learn to allow that hole to be filled with God. St. Augustine would write "my heart is restless until it finds it rest in You" - it is learning to live in the love of God and in this we discover sabbath; real rest (or freedom).
I think it is for this reason that Jesus could embrace His passion, and in the garden offer himself - "Not my will be done, but yours be done." That even in the shadow of the horror of that which was before Him, Jesus surrenders His life. Again on the cross, in the surety of the love of His Father, He commits His spirit. This is the fruit of Christian freedom - that regardless of the situation - the Father is faithful and trustworthy. His love is enough, and it is in this we have a hope that transcends all of life.