Sunday, July 12, 2020

Year A, Pentecost 6, Romans 8:1-11, Freedom

Romans 8:1-11
1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
  9But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
Last week, I made a statement that some of the online community found controversial.
When I value my own freedom more than I value your life, it is because of the power of sin that is within me. 

Here is an irony.  Our devotion to our own personal freedoms is a slavery that can kill us.  When our personal liberties are our god, we are not free at all, but captive to our own sinful desires.
Freedom is an interesting concept, because in fact, it is an illusion.
We talk about freedom a lot in this country.  But it is not what we think it is.
When the Thirteen Colonies declared their independence from England and established this country the people didn’t automatically become “free”, as in free from any government authority in their lives.
Freedom, pure freedom, doesn’t exist.
We are always under the law, the only question is what law we are under.
When our nation fought and won the Revolutionary War what that meant was not that the colonists were set free to do whatever they want, but that they could establish a new government, of the people, by the people, and for the people.  But there was a new government.
Free from one government to serve another.
Likewise, throughout history, whenever we have had to defend our freedom, it was not actually “freedom” we were defending, but independence.  World War II was fought to make sure that we were not conquered by Germany and Adolf Hitler but rather could remain an independent nation living under our own constitution and the laws that govern this land.  But we are bound by those laws.  We are not free.
The founding fathers, for example, declared “No taxation without representation.”  But there would be taxes to pay, and we pay them to this day.  It’s just those taxes are determined by our elected representatives.
Likewise, we live in a land of laws.  There is almost no aspect of our lives that is not regulated by some sort of law or another.  Even the food we put on our table is regulated by law.  I mean we can choose whether to have beef or chicken for supper, but there are regulations that govern how that beef or chicken are processed and distributed.
Likewise there are laws governing almost every aspect of our lives, in one way or another.
To be a citizen of this country is not to be free from all laws and mandates, but rather to choose to submit to them as “law abiding citizens”.  Right?
The alternative is anarchy, lawlessness, and chaos.
This is the thing about freedom.  We are set free from one thing, to live under another thing.
In fighting for our independence from England, we became free from the rule of the King of England, but bound to the rule of our new government. 
If I moved from here to Canada, I might be free from the reach of the laws in this country, but I would need to be subject to the laws in Canada.
The Apostle Paul has been speaking about our bondage.
In Romans Paul consistently lays out two options.
We are slaves to sin, death, and the devil.
Or we are slaves to righteousness, life, and God.
In today’s lesson this theme is expressed as the choice of living in the flesh or living in the Spirit.
5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”
To live according to the flesh is to be bound by our sinful thoughts and desires.
To live according to the Spirit is also to be bound, but to live according to the law of love.
One path leads to death.
And the other to life.
To live according to the flesh, or according to the Spirit.
To be in bondage to sin, death, and the devil,
                Or to serve God in loving obedience.
Those are our choices.
There are no others.

But this is the thing:
To live in the Spirit, to be in Christ, and to submit to the law of Love, is perfect freedom for love is the fulfillment of the law.
The easiest way to illustrate this is to think about marriage.
I am bound to Karla in marriage.  And in that I am bound to her in marriage I am not free to do anything.
I am not free to abuse her.
I am not free to neglect her.
I am not free to be unfaithful to her.
If I do those things there would be a consequence to pay.
However, because I love her, I would never choose to abuse her, or neglect her, or be unfaithful to her.  I freely do what the Law requires.

To live in the Spirit is to live according to the Law of Love and it is prefect freedom for Love will always will to do what the law requires.
If I love you, as Christ first loved me, it’s no longer about what I have to do, but what I want to do, for to love is to conform our lives to Christ.
Martin Luther speaks about the paradox of Christian freedom.  He says:
“A Christian is an utterly free man, lord of all, subject to none.
A Christian is an utterly dutiful man, servant of all, subject to all.”
To rephrase that, think of it this way:
Love demands nothing, but gives everything.
To love your spouse, is to demand nothing.
But to love your spouse, is to be willing to give everything.
That’s the way Christ has loved us.
Christ demands nothing of us, but gives everything for us.
And for us to live in the Spirit of Christ is to live in the same way as Christ, demanding nothing, but giving everything.
And in that is freedom.

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