The freedom to be a servant
I’ll admit it: one of my all-time favorite movies is Braveheart. It’s a VERY fictionalized account of a Scottish rogue-hero named William Wallace. VERY fictionalized. But it’s also very fun.
One of the iconic moments is when Wallace, played by Mel Gibson, cries out, “…they may take our lives, but they’ll never take…our freedom!” I wonder if we Americans resonate especially with that sentiment? Freedom is one of our highest national values, perhaps best captured by Patrick Henry’s famous quote: “Give me liberty or give me death.”
As we look back over the past two years of pandemic, one of the underlying issues for many was whether the various mandates that were imposed represented an overreaching violation of long-cherished liberties. I confess I tend to be in that camp; I believe liberties so dearly purchased should not be lightly forfeit. And once they are, they are not easily regained.
Which is why Peter really grabs my attention in the second chapter of his letter. “Live as people who are free…” (1 Peter 2:16) Remember, this letter was written to Christians experiencing discrimination and persecution for their faith. Peter reminds them that, despite their “exile” status, they are actually free. Free in the deepest and most important sense. Free from their sin and shame; free from their addiction to pleasing others; free from the bondage of earning God’s love; free from God’s righteous judgment.
Jesus trumpeted this eternal, spiritual liberty when he said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) It is this freedom…this liberty…with which Peter comforts his readers who are experiencing some sort of bondage. “Live as people who are free…” In other words, whatever earthly bondage you might experience, it will not last. You are free through Jesus Christ. Live like you believe it!”
But then Peter snaps our heads back with this disturbing phrase: “…not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil…” What must that look like? Christians, the “free-est” people in the world, are using their freedom as a smokescreen for evil practices. Yuck!
But isn’t that happening right now, 2000 years later? We watch as certain Christians take “principled” stands in defense of religious liberties…but behaving in ways that bring reproach to the Church. It’s almost as if we are TRYING to be offensive in the way we contend for our rights and liberties. Yes, we must live into our freedom…but in so doing, we cannot give ammunition to those who are enemies of the gospel. So…what to do?
Well, good news…kinda: Peter has remarkable antidote for false freedom; shocking, actually: give some of your liberty away. Make yourself subject to others: in the government, in the workplace, in marriage… submit yourself willingly to others for the sake of Christ. The remarkable truth here is that we who are supremely free…witness to that freedom in Christ by becoming the servants of others.
I’m not sure you’ll enjoy my message on Sunday. I’m not sure I’ll enjoy it, honestly. But it’s a message we all need to hear, so I hope you come and we can be a little miserable together! After all, misery loves company! ????
Chapel Hill Gig Harbor
Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash