As our nation gets ready once again to celebrate political liberty with fried chicken and fireworks on the 4th of July, the epistle reading for this Sunday, Romans 6:12-23, reminds us that the great liberty of the Christian is not political but spiritual, a freedom from the power of sin.

One great but painful achievement of our country was the elimination of slavery as a legal institution. Yet low-paying and oppressive forms of employment still constitute a kind of virtual slavery for many people in America and around the world. See for instance a recent USA Today article about the plight of port truckers in Southern California. Paul uses that kind of enslaving oppression as a picture of the force of sin in our lives. It is a master, a form of life, from which we find it impossible to escape.

Paul’s great proclamation is that Jesus has set us free. It’s not the freedom we ordinarily celebrate as Americans, freedom to make choices like for whom to vote or whether to put chicken or burgers on the barbecue next Tuesday, but freedom to enter into a wholly other kind of servitude, service to Jesus Christ. Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free.” That freedom is found in deliverance from sin and following the way of Jesus.

So as the 4th arrives next week, I will be thankful for some of the liberties I enjoy as an American. But I will be even more thankful for the liberty I enjoy as a Christian, freedom from sin and its oppressive wages, which as verse 23 says, is death. What I am thankful for is the gift verse 23 celebrates, the free gift of God which is “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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2 Responses to Freedom

  1. craig says:

    Does the gospel message of Jesus have anything to do with what we might call collective injustice like the virtual slavery of those truckers? Is it only freedom from personal sinful practice especially sexual misconduct? Does freedom from sin and the Kingdom of God have anything to do, in this present moment, with a solution to to the sort of collective sin you mention–and the graphic example of the radiant girls you mentioned in you sermon on this text? I hope it does have some relevance, but fear you may be have been right only to emphasize our hope for personal victories in private life.

    • Thanks for this thoughtful comment, Craig. I share your desire that the Gospel be relevant to (and have good news in regard to) wholesale episodes of injustice. Actually, I share the plight of the port truckers and the radium girls more as illustrations than as direct applications only to engage in a little gentle, subversive-consciousness raising in the hope that readers and listeners who might otherwise turn off to a social issue will make that connection between Gospel salvation and salvation from social evils. The God who is Jesus is also the God of the Exodus and He surely cares about the plight of present-day slaves and how the rest of His people respond to them. That said, I also share with you the fear that battling social evil and offering concrete present-day salvation to those most affected by that evil is a huge, confusing, and very daunting task. I don’t feel very much up to it, but I don’t want to write it off either. May God help us all.

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