"For freedom Christ has set us free.”
It seems Paul sees freedom as a good in itself. But what is the meaning and shape of freedom? It quickly becomes clear that Paul’s idea is far from the individual liberty and self-sufficiency we know and cherish today. He continues: "through love become slaves to one another.” For Paul, freedom is not about being unbound but well bound.The call of freedom is not away from the influence of other people; it draws us more deeply into relationships of dependence, service, and kindness.
As Peachtree looks ahead to our 100th anniversary, in order to express and celebrate our unique story and space, I have been working on a project to write a new hymn for each clerestory window in our Sanctuary. Sometimes it happens that a tune or turn of phrase unravels an entire song rather quickly. When I turned my attention to the window of the Lord’s Supper, all the names for the meal flooded my mind: communion, eucharist, feast, altar, table, banquet, supper, dinner, etc. Within 24 hours I had a sketch of twelve verses (far more than anyone would want to sing in succession on a Sunday morning). Many have been modified, omitted, or combined, but one remains as it was written that day:
We come to the supper
all others to see
as sisters and brothers,
beloved and free
but bound to each other
by what we receive:
the body and blood for
all those who believe.
The liberty of Christian life is one of love that binds us together. In Christ, God shows his own radical freedom by becoming one of us, binding his nature to ours, taking on the limitations of human life. As he same window reminds us, it is God himself who washes the disciples’ feet before the table. Truly divine freedom shares burdens and serves others. We prefer a freedom that insulates us and prevents others from affecting what we think, do, need, value, and buy. But in the end, such a freedom is simply slavery to one’s own opinions and preferences—and deep down, “the desires of the flesh.” Paul’s list of “works of the flesh” has less to do with personal sins and more with division and isolation within community. Accordingly, the “fruit of the Spirit” is less a list of personal skills or qualities and more the adhesive and character of a truly free and beloved community.