Freedom. Independence. Nothing captures the American spirit like these words, and at no time do we celebrate these things as much as around the 4th of July. One might wonder how blowing stuff up (fireworks) came to be one of the chief means of celebrating our national independence, but that is a subject for another day. Instead I would like to talk a little bit about our freedom as Christians, our freedom in Christ.
Martin Luther wrote a work called “The Freedom of the Christian.” In there, he captured the paradoxical nature of Christian freedom, with the following paired statements:
The Christian is master of all, and slave to nothing
The Christian is slave to all, and master of no one
Although these statements appear quite contradictory, when they are properly understood, they explain the nature of Christian life quite well.
Consider the first statement – “The Christian is master of all, and slave to nothing.” In what way is this intended? Just this, that in Christ, everything that seeks to master us is ultimately overthrown, because we have been given a new reality. In an epistle lesson from last month, from Galatians 3, St. Paul spoke about how God’s law was our guardian until faith came. But by faith in Christ Jesus and His saving work, we have been taken from being under the law, with all its threats and accusations. While the law would seek to enslave us, it cannot. Every threat and accusation the law would make against those who live by faith in Christ is trumped by this, that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Likewise, sin, death, and the power of the devil would seek to be master to us as well, but Jesus has overthrown these things. In Christ, the Christian truly is “master of all, and slave to nothing.”
However, and let me be as clear as I can about this in such a short space – this freedom is not as much “freedom from” as “freedom for.” The Freedom of a Christian is this: Because we no longer must spend every waking moment fearing punishment under the law, and because we have been freed from seeking justification on the basis of our own works, we are freed for life as God’s people. We are freed for a life of loving joyful service to our neighbor, flowing out of the riches of our life of faith. Because we have everything in Christ, we can give everything up for our neighbor. The freedom of a Christian, in this way, leads to us voluntarily becoming “slave to all, and master of no one.” God’s law still is His will for our lives – it is just that, in Christ, by faith, we want to do God’s will.
Perhaps a way to think about this is a way that I was encouraged on occasion to think about things when I was a child. When it comes to God’s law, the way to think about it is no longer “I have to,” but rather, “I get to.”
As we celebrate our national freedom, I’d encourage you also to consciously make an effort to celebrate your Christian freedom. On account of the joy that is set before you in Christ Jesus, respond by serving your neighbor in the name of Jesus. In doing so, you will be truly celebrating freedom.
Peace in Christ,