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- Sound familiar? – This seemingly constant struggle between what the best of me wants to do and what the other part of me does anyway? … Yet, maybe that’s not what the apostle Paul is describing. Maybe there is more to life than this. A greater freedom to live as God desires.
- On this July 4th weekend, we in America are “tuned” to the language of freedom. Isn’t that what our country is all about? – “The home of the free … with liberty and justice for all?”
- I will come back to that, but first let’s look more closely at the text.
- In Romans 6 and 8 (before and after this passage), Paul says we have been set free from sin – that we have been raised to a new life in Christ already – that we live by the Spirit (in the power and freedom of the Spirit).
- When we don’t do what we know what is right – what “the law” says to do – we prove that the law cannot keep us from sinning, that it does not have the power to make any real change in our lives. – Living under the law – living by the rules of our religion – just isn’t enough. Never was.
- Paul also says in these chapters that sin is a power greater than our human ability to do what is right. Sin is not just behavior, not just what we do. There is a power of sin and evil operating in this world that apart from Christ and the Spirit of God, we cannot overcome.
- Yet … Who will rescue me? – Thanks be to God, who delivers me – sets me free – through Jesus Christ our Lord! – These are the key words of the passage. Not the struggle. Not the failures. Not the sinful behaviors. No.
- The key to it all is that we have God’s promise to set us free from the power of sin through Christ and the Spirit. If in our inner spirit, we delight in doing God’s will, God will set us free and give us the power to do it. Thanks be to God!
- A common belief among Christians is that we are basically sinful and cannot do what is right, no matter how hard we try. That’s why we need God to forgive us, why we need God’s grace for what we have done. …. But Paul says we are basically good (what I want to do…in my inner being I delight in doing God’s will) – and God sets us free and gives us the power to live that way.
- Throughout our long history – especially since the 4th century when the Roman empire took over the Church – Christians have too often seen our faith and experience as purely individual and often just private. Much of today’s contemporary Christian music is very self-centered, focused almost entirely on “my” relationship with “Jesus.” Many hymns from the 19th and early 20th century were the same way.
- Jesus taught a different way – a way of generosity toward others, compassion for all, seeking justice for the poor and neglected. The NT and OT alike talk far more about the “ekklesia,” the congregation – God’s people – than it does individual faith and experience. What God wants for us, God wants for the whole world. And I believe that what God has done in Christ, God has done for all people.
- So on this 4th of July – and our annual celebration of freedom as a nation – I am more than ever aware that black people are not free here. Hispanic people, people of color and diverse ethnicities – half our population in the U.S. – are not free to come and go and do what they want and live their lives in the way most white people have come to expect.
- It’s time for freedom! Jesus taught generosity, compassion, and justice. He lived it and called us to follow him so that we too would live this way in this world.
· Martin Luther King, Jr. said: No one is free until we all are free. Others said the same thing long before him. It’s time for all of us to believe it and say it and act on it.
· As Paul said in another letter: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” … May our faith and experience as Christians be one of following Jesus – to live out generosity, compassion, and justice – and freedom for all people today and always.