Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Praise God for giving us earth life to cultivate relationship with Christ, before we will spend eternity with Him. When we meet the One who sits on the Throne of Glory in Heaven, we know that He is not a stranger but a friend. Jesus said, “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15b). We can freely go to Him just as a friend would do to each other. And He promises that He is always there for us.
No one is born free. Our common human experience prepares us to receive this revealed truth; for when we leave the warm security of the womb, we are immediately embraced in protecting and nurturing arms. If we were set free then, we would merely die. Hunger and thirst, weather and disease, accidents and animals would make short work of us if we were set free. An infant is not born into freedom, but into a network of security and care. If the infant is carefree it is because of the constant attendance of many who are careful. We begin our lives in an intricate arrangement of constraints, limits, boundaries and restrictions. No one counts that bad. Everyone, in fact, agrees that it is good. But it is not free. If we have nostalgic longings for those years of golden innocence, they are longings not for freedom but for security. We are, if we are fortunate, born secure; we are not born free. We are, however, born with a destiny to freedom and a capacity for freedom which are realized in a life of faith.
It has been two thousand years since Christ lived and died and rose again. The world had seen succession of political and social revolutions that had featured the word freedom. Especially in the Western world, but hardly confined there, aspirations to freedom were very strong. But when I (Eugene Peterson) looked at the people I was living with as pastor—fairly affluent, well educated, and somewhat knowledgeable about the Christian faith—I realized how unfree they were. They were buying expensive security systems to protect their possessions from burglary. They were overcome with anxieties in the face of rising inflation. They were pessimistic about the prospects for justice and peace in a world bristling with sophisticated weapons systems and nuclear devices. They were living huddled, worried, and defensive lives. I wanted to shout in objection: Don’t live that way! You are Christians! Our lives can be a growth into freedom instead of a withdrawal into anxious wariness.
Instead of shouting I returned to my regular round of work— preaching and teaching, visiting and counseling, praying and writing, encouraging and directing—but I was determined to seek ways in which I could awaken a hunger and thirst for the free life among people who had lost an appetite for it, and then, having awakened the appetite, to find the food and drink that would satisfy it. The more I did this, the more I became convinced that the experience of freedom in the life of faith is at the very heart of what it means to be human.
Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you (Galatians 5:1). Freedom is not an abstraction, and it is not a thing. It is a gift and a skill. It is a gift that another provides; it is a skill that must be exercised by each person within the learned limits of reality. If we would understand freedom, we must be taught; if we would acquire freedom, we must be trained. Among the writers of Scripture, Paul is the specialist in matters of freedom. He said, “My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness” (Galatians 5:16-17). Train yourself to exercise freedom in Christ by focusing not on your own wants and desires but Christ’s. The more we yield to the Holy Spirit, the more we find ourselves free from the bondage of sins and selfish cravings. Indeed, we are free in Christ!
Please remember me in your prayer. I am leaving tonight for China until end of the month.
Love you freely in Christ,