Across the Pastor’s Desk: What does freedom look like?
Published 8:00 pm Friday, July 1, 2022
Across the Pastor’s Desk by Don Rose
Interestingly enough, this week marks the end of a series of readings from the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Galatians which have been read and heard as second readings in the worship within many churches over the past several weeks. It is most appropriate for this holiday weekend celebrating freedom that these readings have also focused on freedom. However, it has been of a freedom of an entirely different than what is being culturally and socially celebrated.
At the very time the country is celebrating freedom that is rooted in the individual and his or her opportunity to do as he or she desires, the focus of the Apostle Paul is upon a freedom that is directly tied to community. The Apostle writes of a freedom “from” as well as a freedom “for.” Whereas people can get very excited and invested in the idea of being set free from something, there does not seem to be a similar excitement about being set free for something.
The Apostle reminds God’s children that they have in fact been set free from the powers of sin, death and evil. No longer do human beings need to try on their own to overcome these powers that would hinder them from knowing the full joy of relationship with God. Paul writes that the cross of Christ has set humanity free. The chains and burdens of bondage to a fallen and broken world have been removed once and for all. Unfortunately the risk at this point is for humanity to believe that it can do anything that it wants to satisfy its desires because it is “free.” Nothing could be further from reality for Paul.
As much as people have been set from that which held them captive, they have at the same time been freed for faithful service, not on their own behalf, i.e., to demonstrate their own value and worth, but rather service for the sake of the other, their neighbor wherever that neighbor may be encountered. Freedom in Christ comes with responsibility for the neighbor. No longer having to try to take care of one’s own salvation, the believer is now free to take care of any who are in need.
In serving, the believer not only freely helps the one in need but at the same time witnesses the faith in the freeing power of the cross for the sake of all humanity. Perhaps it is ultimately a blessing that on this weekend of celebrating freedom, believers once again have the opportunity to hear of the true freedom that is theirs as a result of God’s love revealed for the sake of the whole creation in the cross of Christ.
Don Rose is pastor at Mansfield and United Lutheran churches.