Walking Free

A Christian man is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.
A Christian man is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.
-Luther, 1520; A TREATISE ON CHRISTIAN LIBERTY

Understanding how the culture in which we live shapes our followership of Jesus is no small task. Some have described culture as the ‘air we breathe.’ It is in many ways so pervasive that we fail to even notice its impact. One of the beauties of God’s Word is that, as unchanging truth, it can show us how and where culture is “pressing us into its mold” rather than us being transformed into the image of Jesus. Highlighting one of these areas is Romans 14. Ours is a time when we get the first part (v1-12) about not being judged by or judging other sisters or brothers in Christ. And while the application of that text has more implications for us looking carefully over our own behaviors, there is a lot about it that ‘feels right’ given the air we breathe. On the other hand, the closing verses of the chapter (v13-23) push hard against our culture and call us to transformation in a powerful way.
To serve someone when we are free to do as we please is love on display. It is what Jesus did in redeeming humanity. He was not forced to die, He chose it. You and I, because of His death and resurrection life, have an incredible amount of freedom which is ours to enjoy. When we choose to lay aside our freedom rather than offend a fellow Christ follower, then we are walking in love. Our culture is one where we are encouraged to embrace a “here I am, deal with it” stance on such matters. That approach to life in Christ will wound fellow believers for whom Christ died. So we have to do the difficult work of being transformed by God and refuse conformity to the world. Let’s serve one another by walking in love, carefully bearing this freedom we have in Jesus.
One final related idea seems helpful to mention. Within the Christian sub-culture, especially among those who are seeking to be most ‘relatable’ there is a trend that seems to be a reaction to what is perceived as stuffy legalism or traditionalism. I know I am painting with a broad brush here so I will ask your grace in understanding. Overall, it seems to go something like, “I am free to do something in Jesus and I am going to do it, in fact I owe it to myself to exercise my freedom to the limit.” Only, what we are ‘free’ to do in Christ becomes harder and harder to determine when a vast majority of ‘Christians’ know so little of what the Bible teaches. Adding to the confusion is a culture that is increasingly post-Christian. This is at least a part of how things which the Bible clearly calls sin become accepted, even defended. The checks to this trend are twofold. First, we need to know what the Bible teaches. Second, we need to do the careful thinking work of application. You may be free to do something but it may not be beneficial to you or to those around you. Or you may not at all be allowed to do something but you think you can because everyone else is. Know what God says, then listen carefully for the Holy Spirit to speak to your conscience about your involvement in an activity. Do you hear His approval?
By God’s grace be a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. And by God’s grace be a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.

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