Paul says we are called to be free. That’s just great. That is what we long for—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That’s the American way, right?
But wait—Paul also reminds us that we are supposed to love each other as we love ourselves. So whose life, liberty, and happiness are we really pursuing?
Being free would suggest living a completely independent life, not burdened by the needs and expectations of others. Loving each other as we love ourselves would suggest making the needs and expectations of others just as important as our own. There seems to be some tension between being free and loving each other as we love ourselves.
Perhaps we need to rethink [there’s that word again] what we mean by free.
We always say that our creator bestowed on us the gift of free will. Maybe that’s really just an excuse for our disobedience. There have always been restrictions [You can eat from any tree—except the tree in the middle (Genesis 2:16-17)]. There have always been expectations [You are blessed—to be a blessing to others (Genesis 12:2-3)]. It’s true that God does not force us to believe or follow, but when we choose not to believe or follow are we really choosing to be free?
When we choose to turn away from God we are really choosing to bear our own burdens. God desires to help us with our burdens—designing a boat to float us to safety in the deluge; providing water, manna, and meat for our journey through the wilderness; preparing a smooth and straight highway through the wilderness for our return from exile.
Learning to let God carry our burdens; allowing God to provide for our needs; following the path God has laid out before us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ—that is when we begin to cultivate the fruit of the spirit—that is when we become a community of holy, faithful, equal people. Learning to depend completely on God—that is when we become free.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Rik