Jesus Sets Us Free
As Social Media blew up first over the “Red Cup” Controversy, then over the refugee crisis Christians in America have publicly wrestled with the question, “Who are we?” As Christ followers, as His Church, as His Bride?
This week we debated coffee, next week it will be something else, but in moments of discussion and decision, how do we wrestle with the big questions in ways that light up the gospel instead of darkening it’s identity?
This week’s Life Journal readings (Job 28-40; Galatians 1-6, 1 Corinthians 1-14, Psalm 122 & 149) give us a hint:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
I memorized that verse this week and walked around my house repeating it [loudly]. (My kids looked at me a little strangely). But each time I repeated it, it sunk in deeper that my life is not my own. I can not live by my own ideals, by my preferred culture, or by what feels most comfortable.
“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
We can’t walk where, or talk how, God’s love compels us to if we are bound in chains. Chains of legalism. Chains of fear. Chains of anger. Chains of arrogance.
“You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5:4-6).
What truly counts when we are defining Christianity? God says it’s faith expressing itself through love. Everything else is details.
So what does Faith expressing itself through Love look like in our social media debates and Monday morning conversations? Job’s conversations with his friends give us some ideas.
- Love does not envy. It doesn’t speak in a way that cuts others down to size. “Oh, that Job might be tested to the utmost, for answering like a wicked man!” Elihu cries out (Job 34:36). God’s heart is always to first save what is lost. If we speak in ways that don’t release the aroma of God’s heart to rescue, than we’ve misrepresented or misunderstood God’s heart.
- Love does not boast. It doesn’t publicly parade out the sins of others. Elihu continues, “To his sin he adds rebellion; scornfully he claps his hands among us and multiplies his words against God.” (Job 34:37)
- Love is not proud. It doesn’t have a “know-it-all” attitude. Elihu’s sounded like this: “Bear with me a little longer and I will show you that there is more to be said in God’s behalf.” (36:2) Can you feel the cringe as you read those words? God judges for Himself. Our words of righteous indignation hinder far more than they help.
- Love does not dishonor others: Love is kind. It does not mock. “So Job opens his mouth with empty talk; without knowledge he multiples words.” (Job 35:16) and “Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to affliction.” (36:21) Oh Elihu! God help us not to do this! The tone of the righteous is loving and forthright, not mocking. Love can be fierce and beautiful, but it does not mock or ridicule others, not in tone -not in words.
- Love is not self-seeking. Love protects. It doesn’t try to prop itself up with words that say, ‘my wisdom is higher than yours’. Elihu did it like this, “I get my knowledge from afar; I will ascribe justice to my Maker.” (36:3) Elihu boasts of his wisdom as higher than the elders he sits with, higher than that of Job who has given his life to be sifted and sorted for God’s purposes.
- Love is not easily angered: Love is patient. “Be assured that my words are not false; one perfect in knowledge is with you.” (36:4). It’s almost too much. Elihu goes to the extreme and says he is perfect in knowledge, but we might be tempted to say that our knowledge is perfect. An indicator of this is when fierce anger for others rises up inside of us instead of fierce compassion.
- Love keeps no record of wrongs: Love always trusts. We are called to lead people to trust in a Person, not a program. Job’s friends were off track again, “If they obey and serve him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment.” (Job 36:11) God wants us to point the world to The Way, not “the American way” of progress and prosperity.
- Love does not delight in evil: Love rejoices in the truth. Elihu said it something like this, “Listen to this Job: …Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes His lightning flash?” (Job 37:15). This can happen when we speak to intimidate instead of to illuminate. And that is where God stepped in:
“Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?” (38:2) “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clowds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness.” (38:8-9)
God responded to Elihu’s question of, “Do you know how God controls the clouds?” with the answer, “Elihu, do you?
God says, “I am the One who holds the clouds in my hands, not you.” James 4:6 and Proverbs 3:34 both remind us “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
So how do we use our voice to join the discussions of the day?
By walking in the freedom of the law of love:
- Jesus set us free from self-absorbtion: Love gives. “But we preach Christ crucified..” (1:23-24) Jesus laid down all His rights to save others. Do we lay down ours?
- Jesus sets us free from self-reliance: Love follows. “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” (See 1 Corinthians 2:10-11) Charging ahead without God’s leading can leave us floundering.
- Jesus sets us free from self-centeredness: Love acts. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” (1 Corinthians 4:20). Love compels us to be part of God’s Mission on earth. That is always first.
- Jesus sets us free from self-importance: Love exalts God. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.” (1 Corinthians 8:2-3). Walk into every discussion with our ear to God’s heartbeat. The voices of the Social Media world are loud and long, but if we love God above all else, we’ll lean in to hear His voice before we jump in. It’s not our words that transform, it’s His.
- Jesus sets us free from from self-righteousness: Love relies on God. “Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good but the good of others.” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24). These are the days to build up the faith of everyone we meet.
May we walk in the freedom of Christ which is the way of love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.