Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Standing in 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

So Long, Egypt… Hello, Slavery

Aside from its primary purpose as the encyclopedia of truth for our lives, the Bible also reads as an epic history of ancient Israel. Its first major climax comes when God delivers His people from their servitude in Egypt and they set out on a 40-year hike across the wilderness, looking for a home of their own.

Experiencing long-sought liberty from oppression is exhilarating at first. Then, we find a long road stretches between gaining freedom and living free. If we get reckless, we risk losing freedom along the way. So it went with the Israelites. They left Egypt, free and full of hope. But inability to discipline themselves brought them out of the desert as slaves once again. In this case, the burden proved far heavier and more inescapable than Pharaoh’s whip. They stooped and stumbled under the constantly mounting weight of the Law.

The Power of Sin

Paul described the Law as the power of sin (1 Corinthians 15.56); its detailed list of dos and don’ts couldn’t possibly be met. Instead of preventing sin, it perpetuated it. We grasp this intellectually. Yet to Paul and other first-generation believers, the Law’s crushing burden was almost palpable.

We say Christ died for our sins—sometimes more blithely than we should. Paul’s message had a slightly different skew. Forgiveness for sin was the product of something much greater: freedom from sin. Jesus summarized His mission in Luke 4.18 like this: “to proclaim freedom for the prisoners… to release the oppressed.” He defeated sin by destroying the power behind it.

History Repeating

Paul’s challenge was keeping history from repeating itself. Accepting Calvary’s freedom didn’t necessarily inform believers how to maintain it. And after Jesus physically exited the scene, they struggled mightily with what to do and on whose authority. Tradition and fear set many of them scurrying to reactivate old laws to reinforce new behaviors. Paul consistently told believers, “There’s no going back now!” Gertrude Stein would have said, “A slave is a slave is a slave.”

As God’s Spirit of inclusion sweeps the world, GLBT Christians and their supporters march ahead with unyielding courage. The slightest pause for legal debate—let alone, self-defense—belies our confidence. Jesus purchased our liberty with His life. The price was too great; we won’t sell out to overpriced traditions and exorbitant fears. We won’t step aside for anything that enslaves us with extraneous doctrine, dogma, and taboos. We stand in freedom.

Norman Rockwell: Freedom to Worship (1943)

(Tomorrow: Standing in Awe)

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