Friday, August 15, 2014

The Price of Freedom

I am fond of saying that bond-servants of Christ enjoy enormous freedom.  We are free from the opinions and expectations of others, even—or especially—of ourselves.  That is truly, wonderfully, Good News.  But as we have been reminded by our celebrations of Memorial Day and more recently, the Fourth of July, freedom comes at a price.  Generations of Americans have made incredible sacrifices to win us the freedoms we enjoy in this country.

To be sure, our freedom in Christ was purchased by Christ’s blood on our behalf.  It is not possible to overestimate the importance and significance of this truth.  We are no longer cursed, no longer under the doom of a penalty that we cannot pay.  But that doesn’t mean that we do not participate in the cost of our freedom.  If we are to fully realize our freedom in Christ and use it for His purposes and His glory, we must cede control to our Master.  It seems like a contradiction in terms, but bond-servants of Christ are only as free as they are surrendered:  If we are to enjoy the freedom from the pressures of performance and success and more significantly, freedom from self-rule, we must give up our desire for mastery over our own lives.

This concept is a hard sell in today’s culture.  It is widely said that rugged individualism built this country.  Success is defined by performance, which in turn is measured by how well we compare and compete with others.  Measuring up and looking good are often more valued than a character of conviction and integrity. 

Christians are no more immune to cultural norms than anyone else.  But!  We get to make a choice.  We can go along with our culture and pursue ephemeral success and even more fleeting pleasure, or we can recognize that Christ is a better master of our lives than we are.  As bond-servants of Christ, we place not only our allegiance our all of who we are in Christ’s arms.

We return to the matter of control.  Bond-servants of Christ have elected to claim Christ as their master.  As we seek to live as bond-servants, there are three stages of relinquishing control.  The first is to recognize and acknowledge that we have no control.  Even some non-believers get this far, though they often deny it.  We live as sinners in a sinful world; this is truly terrifying.  It is easy to want, sometimes desperately, to muster ways of protecting ourselves against the limitless threats of living in a fallen world.  The fatal flaw with this approach—and I’ve spent years trying it—is that it can never work.  We are simply not capable of controlling ourselves, let alone our world and those in it.  The choice before us is not whether to control or not, but whether we will recognize that we cannot control.  God is God and we are not.  God controls and we do not.

The second stage is to accept that we have no control.  At this point we are definitely heading into the territory of Christianity.  Rather than denying our lack of control or fighting to regain it, a bond-servant of Christ accepts it.  Indeed, a lack of control, though often uncomfortable, is irrelevant to a bond-servant of Christ.  Our Master has control, and that reality overrides our discomfort.  And by accepting that our lives are not under our control, we are better able to focus on our Master’s business and take joy in participating in His kingdom’s work.

Finally, we can rejoice that we have no control.  As we come to know our Master more and more deeply, we are able to more fully appreciate His power and goodness, mercy and grace.  We can appreciate the truth that our Master is a wiser, gentler, and more gracious master of our lives than we could ever be.  The desire to control our lives becomes less tempting, less appealing as we taste and see that the Lord is a gloriously good Master.  As we recognize that control is a burden that only the sovereign Lord of the universe can bear, we can walk before Him in freedom and delight.