For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbors yourself.”
Christ died to set us free. His body was broken for us and his blood was shed for us. That’s what the Lord’s supper is all about. We feed on his life, which he willingly gave up for us. God was not obligated to do this. The Father did not have to give up his Son, and the Son did not have to die for God’s people. In their freedom, they chose to serve through love. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believed in him would not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God used his freedom to serve the least of these.
You may not know it, but today is Maundy Thursday. The word "maundy" comes from the same root as "mandate" and the day is named after Jesus' commandment that we love one another as he loved us. The day is as much about the freedom we receive from Christ's sacrifice symbolized in the Lord's Supper as it is about the fresh commandment that God gave to us. Freedom paired with duty.
When we think of freedom in our society, we often think of what’s known as “negative freedom,” that is, the freedom from. We want to be free from oppression and want. We know we need to be free from constraints when it comes to speech and the exercise of religion. We hold as the highest good the freedom to live our lives as we see fit. Freedom, as we see it, is fundamentally freedom from constraint. The fewer the limits, the freer I am.
But we often for get about what’s been called “positive freedom,” that is, the freedom for. Christ set us free from condemnation not so that we can do whatever we liked, but so that we would be free to serve him in spirit and in truth. Our freedom is a gift not to be used to fulfill whatever desires we might have, but to enable us to serve one another through love as Christ served us. Freedom from is incomplete; we also need to freedom for.
Tomorrow is Good Friday, the anniversary of the death of Jesus on the cross. As we reflect on the cost of the freedom Christ purchased for us, let us ask anew what God requires of us. As we take up a day of prayer and fasting, let us repent of the ways we’ve used our freedom in Christ as an opportunity for the flesh. Let us ask God for a new resolve to look not just for what we’re free to do, but how we are free to serve.
God used his freedom to serve us, to save us. And in doing so, he set us free to serve him. Do you spend more time working out what you’re allowed to do—your freedom from? Or do you search the Scriptures and pray, looking for what your duty to God might be—your freedom for?
Father, we know we’re self-centered by nature. We know that too often we’ve looked at our freedom in Christ as a means of pursuing the desires of the flesh. Indeed, Lord, we’re even confused about what are the desires of the flesh and which are the promptings of the Holy Spirit. And our motives, even when we think they’re good, are always mixed. Have mercy on us in Jesus Christ. And teach us what it means to walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.