By Bob Hiller –
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
There are few verses in Scripture that captivate me as much as these words from Paul to the Galatians. These words excite, enthrall, challenge, and, quite frankly, frighten me. What would a life of freedom in the Gospel look like? Try as I may to describe it, I find it difficult to answer this question without imposing the yoke of slavery upon myself or others. Can I actually live in such freedom? Do I trust others to not abuse that freedom? Shouldn’t I return to the enslaving power of the Law to keep them in line just in case they try to abuse it?
St. Paul is hardly intimidated by such questions. In Romans 8:1, he takes it a step further and proclaims to the baptized that there is no condemnation for them! Good gracious! Won’t such thinking just an impetus for sin in our lives? As Dr. Rosenbladt used to lampoon such fears, “Teach that to the kids and they’ll all be out fornical caboodlin’!”
Even St. James, the author that old burdensome book for preachers of grace (I say with tongue firmly planted in cheek), when encouraging the persecuted to endure their trials, proclaims for them the good news that Jesus has promised to give them His crown of life (James 1:12). Won’t such a promise cause those who are running the race of faith to slack off, to put down their defenses, to embrace immorality?
To be sure, Paul says we should beware not to use our freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another (Galatians 5:13). And of course, James is adamant that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). But the call to love and works is certainly not a call to undermine the power of the gospel to produce a life of that sort. In fact, the only Word from God that does free us to love is this promise: that Christ has removed your condemnation and won the crown of life for you. Far from opening up an opportunity to sin, this promise enables us and empowers us to live and work all the more boldly in this world without fear! This is a truly fruitful sort of freedom!
There was a beautiful picture of what this sort of freedom looks like in the Olympics this past week with 17-year-old snowboarder Chloe Kim. Kim was favored to take gold in the women’s halfpipe event. She did not disappoint. In fact, she scored high enough in the second of her three runs to lock up the gold. This meant that, when it came to her third and final run, she had nothing left to prove. She wasn’t riding for gold; the medal was already hers. The pressure was gone, the anxiety relieved. She was free to do whatever she wanted.
Now, what was she to do? She could have just mailed it in. Or she could have mocked her opponents all they way down the pipe. She could have done nothing. It would have been mad for her to abuse her freedom to walk away and abandon her medal, though I suppose the possibility existed. Kim chose none of these options. Instead, she decided to use her freedom to take one last shot at the pipe.
With the gold medal stand awaiting her arrival, she hit the course, putting up an even higher score than her previous runs! She rode with fearless joy and, as a result, scored a 98.25! That is nearly perfect! She didn’t use her freedom to dial it back or goof around. No, but because she was free from the fear of failing, she was able to do more, to try harder, and to enjoy every second of it. Amazingly, already having the gold created an environment for her to go bigger and try harder. And why not? The victory was hers!
That is the freedom you have in Christ! There is no condemnation left for you! God is not sitting around waiting to crush you for getting it wrong. He’s got the crown of life—purchased for you with the blood of His Son—waiting for your redeemed head. So, get out there and love! Your freedom is the opportunity for just that! To be sure, you will be beset with trials and temptations of all sorts. But Christ has won the victory over those and given you His Holy Spirit who fights the winning battle for you! So, engage in war against your temptations all that much harder! Your freedom is an opportunity for you to live your life, fighting sin and loving your neighbors with fearless joy! For freedom Christ has set you free! So enjoy it, all the way to that promised crown of life!