By Caleb Keith –
I have vivid memories of the first day I was allowed to ride my bike to school all by myself. The ride was only about a mile and half long and consisted of calm city streets that had a max speed limit of 25 mph. At the time, I saw no signs of danger and didn’t understand the risk my parents were taking by letting me embark on this journey. Instead, all I imagined was bragging to my friends when I finally got to class. Looking back now, I see how easily I could have been hurt or killed by one poor decision or a distracted driver. I am so glad that my parents let me take those risks, as it brought me great joy and taught me that the rules of the road aren’t arbitrary guidelines set by mom and dad, but that following or breaking them could have a real impact on my life.
Freedom in any capacity is dangerous and has inherent risk. This is because freedom is always given to us from outside of ourselves. Children receive whatever freedoms they have from their parents, and mankind receives all its freedom from God. The founding fathers of the United States certainly knew this when it came to civil freedom. All the protected freedoms which U.S. citizens enjoy are predicated by this statement, “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The key words being “endowed by their creator.” While such freedom is immeasurably great, it is also immeasurably dangerous. Men have the ability to abuse, to misuse, to hurt, harm, or infringe on the freedoms of other men. But it is this inherent danger which demonstrates the love of God. That man is not forced to be a robotic automaton. Instead, he is given the freedom to live graciously.
If such love is truly demonstrated in the civil realm, it is even more evident when it comes to spiritual freedom. In His creating act, God by His grace and before the fall allowed man the option of disobedience. Such a decision, of course, came with the ultimate consequence—death and the destruction of God’s good creation. However, God in his mercy restores the freedom granted in creation through the death of Jesus Christ. In one saving act, God calls creation back to him. Yet, even in this restored state, our freedom is dangerous. Saint Paul recognizes this in Romans chapters 5 and 6. Paul highlights that God’s grace conquers every sin, even the ones Christians continue to commit after they come to faith. The risk, of course, is that Christians take this knowledge and twist it to justify ignoring and intentionally continuing to commit sins against God and their neighbor.
Paul addresses this immediately saying, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” His answer, “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” God’s grace can and will rise to cover every sin that we commit. The risk is not finding the limits of God’s grace but rather rejecting His grace for our old world of sin. The freedom to reject God’s love is real and terrifying. It causes some to replace such scandalous freedom with the iron fist if the Law. No law or rule we try to enforce will ever undo what God has set in motion. We should not fear our freedom but rejoice in it. For it is by God giving up his own life that we have ours. And the freedom that comes with the Gospel that allows us to rejoice and share his love with the broken and the lost. In fact, it is this freedom that brings Christians to understand how God’s Law could be good at all, just as when I rode my bike alone for the first time and the purpose of traffic laws began to have real meaning. It is only the freedom of Grace and not the Law that can bring such love and understanding. Thanks be to God that he has risked it all, freeing you from death and sin forgiving you by the innocent blood of Christ.