July 4th 2010

Freedom!

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

Thomas Jefferson, author of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, described as a “self-evident” truth that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” and “that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The apostle Paul wrote about freedom centuries before the U.S. Founding Fathers. He declared that the gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of freedom. Living in the grace of God is true freedom indeed. Yet, strangely, when such terms as freedom and forgiveness are used to explain God’s grace, certain misunderstandings often occur.

Some people mistake grace as being God’s permission to do anything we want, including unwholesome, destructive behaviour towards self and others. They misunderstand grace to be permission to sin instead of forgiveness of sin. God indeed forgives our every sin, but he doesn’t authorise us to sin. It’s important to understand that while God gives us eternal forgiveness, he doesn’t often remove the natural, physical consequences of sin.

For example, God forgives the sin of adultery, but the adulterer will still suffer the painful social, emotional, and physical results that sin carries with it. Adulterers risk the potentially lethal fury of a jealous husband or wife, they risk any number of sexually transmitted diseases, and they will certainly experience the agonies of tangled relationships with their spouse, their children, and likely, in time, even with their adulterous partner.

God forgives sin, but sins still hurts, just as we can all forgive our own acts of stupidity, but a hot pan will scald no less painfully if we take hold of it. There is great freedom in knowing that God forgives all our sins completely and reconciles us to himself. It is freedom from sin, not freedom to sin.

People who trust in God to forgive all their sins don’t live for sin. They want to live in the way God wants them to—the way of doing to others what they’d want others to do to them. Paul explained it this way: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Romans 7:20).

The Christian life is not a list of rules and regulations. Rather, it is a life in which we care as much about the well being and happiness of others as we do about ourselves. Love, Jesus called it, and there is nothing more freeing. When we move into this life of freedom, we realise that grace in Christ really does mean that God forgives all our sins, past, present and future, and yet we also realise that we don’t want a life of sin. Even though we all do sin, our faith that God loves us anyway moves us to avoid sin, not to embrace it.

Prayer
Holy Father, thank you for the freedom you give to us from sin. We still sin, regrettably, but your freedom allows us to live the Christian life freely towards others by living your love as a witness of you to them.
Amen.

Study by Joseph Tkach

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