…that Christ has set you free
Call it the misguided passion of a young church worker, but I’ve always
been both challenged and excited by scripture’s seemingly unconditional
claims about our freedom. I have yet to hear a good exegetical
engagement with the idea of freedom in Christ. It is mentioned,
celebrated as an abstract idea, and then dismissed as anything
resembling a truth about the world or our lives as Christians.
So I want to ask the blogosphere to engage this content. The Biblical
passages in question are Galatians 5:1 (OK all of Galatians, but mostly
chapter 5), 1 Peter 2:11-25, Matthew 16:18-19, 1 Corinthians 6:12 and
its context, and John 8:31-36. I’m sure there are other passages that
deal with this but this is the bulk of the New Testaments discussion on
freedom in Christ.
What I’m asking is what does it mean that we are free in Christ?
Christopher Wright in his book, Mission of God: unlocking the Bible’s grand narrative, quite simply frames this conversation with some boundaries. He says:
Gravity as a force in the physical universe is an authority built into the way the universe exists. For us humans it authorizes an immense freedom of action on and above the surface of the planet provided we work with it. But it also sets a limit to that freedom. You may freely choose to step off a cliff, but the authority of gravity will decree it to be the last free choice you make. (pg. 53)
We can safely say that freedom does not mean that we don’t have limitations. The world has been made in such a way as to allow us to move freely within the confines of reality but there are things that are just not possible. For instance, it is not possible to be both prideful and humble for the two are juxtaposed.
I think it is also fair to say that freedom is not intended to be a springboard for sin. In Scripture freedom seems often to be accompanied by a request that we “live as servants,” (1 Peter 2:16) and similar appeals.
It seems important at this point to have a working definition for sin. Ronald Habermas in his book, The Complete Disciple, defines sin as anything that unravels the image of God within us (or creation). Sin is most purely an issue of identity, but also one of obedience. Jesus teaches that the Great Commandments sum up the Torah and the Prophets so it would be fair to say that sin is anything that impedes on the image of God and the Great Commandments.
So I ask again, within the confines of nature and the universe and with the knowledge that freedom is not intended to be used for sin, what does it mean that we are free?
What implications does our answer have for issues like: