In the fifth chapter of Galatians St. Paul writes: “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
In November of 1520 Martin Luther published one of his three most important treatises, On the Freedom of a Christian. Near the opening Luther writes these paradoxical sentences:
A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.
A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.
“Wilhelm Mauer has said that Luther’s tract on freedom has rightly been called: “the most perfect expression of Luther’s Reformation understanding of the mystery of Christ.” As it goes with Christ, so it goes with the freedom of the Christian. The Freedom of the Christian is a confession of Christ in a nutshell. Christian freedom is a gift from Christ Himself, “For freedom Christ has set us free…” What Christ did to win salvation in His divine and human natures, He now gives to those who by baptism bear His name: Christian. God justifies the sinner by faith alone. The sinner is changed in inner and outer person after the likeness of Christ. The Christian is at once utterly free in faith and a servant to all in works of love. Christian life is lived between these twin poles of faith and love. This is the paradoxical Christian freedom as Luther taught the Church.” Travis J. Loeslie
In the month during which we celebrate our nation’s freedom, I invite you to reflect on Luther’s understanding of the freedom we have as Christians. May God bless your Independence Day picnics and parades, your fireworks and fanfare and even more your blessings in Christ Jesus our Lord.