As many Christian churches do during Lent, for the past weeks my church has honed in on our sins. Yet we know that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures. As I see more clearly the depth of my sin, I’m overwhelmed by the greatness of Jesus’ work: He died to set me free!
Freedom. Those who have it sometimes take it for granted, not even noticing it, and those who don’t have it long for it. A fish in water is free, but if you were to ask the fish about its freedom, it would probably be hard-pressed to describe the water to you. Yet remove the fish from the constraints of its pond or river, and suddenly it sees how its freedom within the boundaries of the water is a life and death matter.
Freedom for life is found in the Word of God. Like the fish in water, when we live within the boundaries of God’s Word, we find freedom and life. Deuteronomy 4:1,2 says,
And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I have commanded you.
(1.) The reason God gives Israel for listening and obeying him is “that you may live.”
(2.) We ought to speak where the Bible speaks, and remain silent where it remains silent. This gives life and frees us to be fully human.
Life comes from obeying the commandments of God. Like a fish in water, we are free to swim when we’re constrained by the waters’ edges. To go beyond the boundaries is certain death.
For example, the Bible clearly teaches that men and women are made in God’s image and given the cultural mandate to develop the flourishing of the earth and its creatures (Genesis 1:26-30). It doesn’t ever define certain behaviors as inherently masculine or feminine, so we should take care to remain silent where God is silent. To force an artistically gifted young boy to give up his art and play sports because its more “manly,” or to tell a young girl who is a gifted athlete that she should play dolls rather than soccer could squelch the individual talents and humanity of those people. Both the boy and the girl above should be encouraged to pursue becoming more like Jesus–pursue holiness without which no one will see God–while developing the unique skills and interests God has given them. This frees them to enrich their local communities and cities, to pursue the shalom (peace) of the place in which God plants them. When we pursue Christ-like holiness, masculinity and femininity will take care of themselves. (This example is from Mardi Keyes’ lecture, “Male & Female – In the Image of God.” Its available for free from the L’Abri Ideas Library: http://www.labri-ideas-library.org/lecture-list.asp?s=1048)
The boundaries God gives us are real: we are to pursue holiness by pursuing Jesus. But the life and freedom we receive are equally real. Like a fish in water, as we swim in the waters of the grace of God for us in Jesus Christ, we become more fully human and are free to love and serve others with our unique, individual gifts.