If you’re a Christian, and you have been for any length of time, you’ll probably know this passage. It’s one of Paul’s most famous ‘explanations’ of the insufficiency of the Old Testament Law for salvation. I use inverted commas because his explanation is closely-argued and takes some teasing out. It’s a rich banquet of hope which reveals more and more tender morsels of delight with each fresh reading. This is definitely not a passage to skim read once and move on!
As I reflect on it today, the challenge it presents to me is this: I’ve been freed from the demands of the Old Testament law, because they were fulfilled by Jesus. I’ve been freed, made new, made alive, by the Spirit of God, which dwells within me. All things are possible with God. All things are permissible, even as many things are not helpful for me, for all people.
So, I need to stop living as if there is any other law but love. I do not benefit from exchanging one crippling law code, the one of the Old Testament, for another, the weight of expectation I place on myself and allow others to place on me. In fact I suffer. Grievously. So, more to the point, do those around me. Even more to the point, this was never, as far as I can see, God’s intention. Freedom is freedom. Freedom with caveats or constraints is no kind of freedom at all, it is the exchange of one set of barriers for another. That’s the point of the good news Jesus came to tell and to live out for us. Every barrier between God and man is now broken down. We might try and build them up again to make ourselves more comfortable – after all, most of us like to, actually, give control to others, most of us are used to and prefer to carry an element of caution in the way we live, which quickly morphs into fear and anxiety if given the chance. Freedom is freedom is freedom is freedom, is….freedom. Jesus did not die and rise that we might seek to enslave ourselves again.If our approaches to faith, the way our Churches or faith communities function, force us into a way of being and existing which stipulates the possibility of condemnation, we have missed the point. Where the spirit of the Lord, there is freedom.
Of course, we are to live responsibly in the way we love God, others and ourselves. We’re to make good use of the gifts we are given in seeking to serve others, build others up, building the kingdom of God. By no means do we have carte blanche to live just as we please to the detriment of anyone else. We are freed for lives of joyful obedience. Obedience to the law of love, to live the way of the master, the way of the cross, the way that leads to life, the way that glorifies God.