Freedom in Lockdown
As we all click refresh on our newsfeeds in anxious anticipation of covid restrictions being eased in the hopes that this lockdown will soon come to an end, I find myself compelled to remind you that we are both called and empowered to “live as free people“. (I Peter 2:16)
For the duration of covid, the dominant conversation about Christian faith has circled around Sunday gatherings. There has been lots of discussion and debate on personal freedoms, religious freedoms etc… so I won’t be revisiting those here. Instead, I will be focusing on how the Scriptures define freedom and encouraging you, even in this lockdown context, to walk in that freedom.
If you read 1 Peter, you will find that the instruction to “live free” is followed by a very long list of ways to serve people and give your life away. Wait, what?
The logic for this paradoxical unpacking of freedom flows from the premise that (1) nobody is free (2) Jesus sets us free and (3) Jesus’ life exemplifies what it looks like to be free.
OUR PROBLEM WITH FREEDOM
The Scriptures, from the end of Genesis 3 onward carry an assumption: as a result of rejecting God in favour of being god, the human soul is not free. This thing the bible calls “sin” goes far beyond a list of things we ought not to do, but rather is a condition we’re all born into. We’re not “free” in the sense that we were created for worship and though we reject God, we still worship. We orient our lives around something as ultimate. We are led around through life by our deepest longings, we are driven by our appetites and we organize our lives around what we believe life is really about. Whatever or whoever sits in on throne of our hearts is what we are compelled to live for and in that sense, we are not free.
GOD’S SOLUTION FOR FREEDOM
The picture painted in the first few pages of the Scriptures is that humanity was created to flourish with each other from our love for God. Our rejection of God and subsequent desire to be god or set something else up as “god” is why there is an endless catalogue of ways in which this beautiful world is also a broken, unloving place. Jesus lived the perfectly loving & wise life that we should be living, but aren’t. He died an atoning death for our sin. He rose from death, proving His claims to be God who came in grace to take away our sin. Those who believe this are “set free” from the tyranny of setting up little transient things as god, for the freedom that is found in returning our wayward worship to God. By doing this, the Scriptures use the provocative term “free from the slavery of sin” which is a way of saying that while all Christians still struggle with selfish, unloving impulses, we are empowered to choose otherwise. We are free to enjoy good things without giving them a coronation ceremony in our hearts and have them drive our lives as ultimate things.
OUR EXAMPLE IN FREEDOM
Jesus was free, and his freedom looked like loving service, sacrifice, self emptying and death. We are made free and gospel-shaped freedom will manifest as loving service, sacrifice, and self emptying – death to self.
Freedom in most of our conversations begins with the word “personal” and is framed around the self. Looking at Jesus, we find that freedom is expressed as an orientation away from the self. Consistently throughout the NT letters, freedom is not framed as the removal of restrictions. It’s actually demonstrated as either thriving under the right restrictions or the willingness to take on restrictions in order to love others. The outworking of the phrase “live as free” in 1 Peter (and consistently elsewhere) is this: in order to love, you must commit, and the very act of commitment brings restriction.
This gospel logic is exemplified in Jesus Himself who was of course, totally free. Jesus didn’t fear the expectations or domination of anybody and willingly restricted Himself to human flesh and death on a cross for everybody.
FREEDOM IN LOCKDOWN
Sunday worship is a priority for Christians, not merely because there is a written 4th commandment that tells us to – but because our hearts, gripped by grace want to.
Right now at Redeemer, our gatherings are severely limited. As I look across the sea of faces over Zoom, I can’t WAIT until we are gathered in person, which is the way worship should be. I am thankful that God is able to use everything – even this – for His purposes. For the first time in our relatively easy lives (globally speaking), many Canadian Christians actually long to be in church together.
In all the important discussion around religious freedom as it relates to the church gatherings, we would do well not to let those discussions severely truncate our understanding of what it means to “live free”.
Christian freedom is celebrated on Sunday, but must be embodied & enjoyed far beyond it.
If we gather for church on Sunday but all our time, energy and resources is squarely focused on our own lives from Monday to Saturday, we’re not living as free.
Even in the frustrating, weariness of this lockdown, we can embody true Christian freedom. Send the text. Make the call. Connect over Zoom even though we hate Zoom. Grab a hat in one hand, a coffee in the other and meet someone for a walk to care for them and encourage them. Give your life away – whether it be to someone in our Redeemer church community or the broader KW community.
My friends, don’t truncate your vision of gospel freedom. You’re not free when the lockdown is over – you’re free now. Live as free.