As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this year, it is important for us to remember some of the key statements of Martin Luther. One of those statements is on the concept of freedom. Luther said in his most famous treatise On the Freedom of the Christian, in 1520: “The Christian individual is a completely free lord of all, subject to none. The Christian individual is a completely dutiful servant of all, subject to all.“
These two statements may seem to contradict one another, but, in fact, they encapsulate the complete picture of what we as Christians call freedom.
The first part of Christian freedom is a freedom FROM. We are free of the power of sin, death and the devil in our lives through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. We are no longer subject to judgment because Jesus has put the judgment for sin upon himself and declared us not guilty. All that would separate us from God has been taken away. Theology professor Kristin Johnston Largen calls this grounding freedom (“Deeper Understandings,” Living Lutheran, p. 45). We are grounded in the righteousness of Christ.
The other part of Christian freedom is a freedom FOR. Now that we are free of the power of sin in our lives, we have the freedom to live for Christ and live for others in service and outreach to them. In response to what Christ has done for us, we have the freedom to live a new life that mirrors the life that he lived, humbly meeting the needs of those around us and loving people unconditionally. Our service thus becomes a joy and not a burden and something we desire to embark upon freely through the power of the Holy Spirit. Prof. Largen calls this driving freedom (“Deeper Understandings,” Living Lutheran, p. 45). We are driven by the Spirit within us to go and do what the Lord has in mind for us to carry out to care for people in his name.
Think this week about the the dual gifts of freedom at work in you each day!