“We are freed from men, and freed to God.”
“For freedom Christ has set us free…”
I am a chronic people pleaser. For years it crippled my life and shaped my decisions. In many cases, it kept me from dangerous decisions and unwise choices, but in far many more instances, it kept me from loving others, enjoying Christ, and resting in joy. Instead, I was freaked out, insecure, neurotic, and emotional. The smallest thing could wreck me. A tone of voice or how someone chose to phrase a compliment and I would obsess about every little aspect of their approval or disapproval. I had a hidden, secret hierarchy of “cool people” and they held my joy in their hands a like a fragile little bird.
But, because I’m a little flaky and incapable of maintaining that kind of focus and dedication, I would sometimes swing to the opposite ditch of, “You don’t matter, I don’t care, I will do what I want! I’m a free agent!” And thumbing my nose at the world, I would enter another kind of people-dictated state.
Both extremes were mandated by those around me. I would either soak up every word, or ignore every word. Sound familiar?
Often I would become frustrated, rather than delighted, with the liberty to do whatever I wanted. “If everyone would just get on the same page with what they want me to do, I could figure it out!” Bible studies and sermons on “Christian liberty” just left me more confused. My parents were pretty conservative. My college friends were not. Technically, neither were sinning, but what was I supposed to do?! How could I make them all happy? (As if I had the power to completely control anyone’s happiness…)
As I got older, the questions got more sticky. What do you do with money? Vacations? Fashion choices? Alcohol? Last time I opened my Bible concordance, I didn’t find an entry for “off the shoulder dresses” or “mojitos.” Why on earth couldn’t God have been a little more clear about the expectations for my life? Also, paystubs began to vary wildly between my different friends. In college, pretty much everyone was broke. But in my thirties, things were starting to become a little more spread out. Was it okay for a Christian to drive a Lamborghini while children were starving in Africa?
But there’s a little snippet at the end of the Galatian’s discussion on liberty, a snippet I often ignored… “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galations 5:13
It’s like being five years old again, and on Christmas morning your dad points to the biggest present beside the tree and shouts with a grin – “That’s yours!” You rip into the paper, and there, standing before you, is a miniature kitchen. Gleaming pots and pans hanging above a tiny (working!) sink. The little fridge is stocked with tiny white eggs and a little pitcher of milk that seems to actually get emptier as you pour it. Every detail is perfect, down to a little dishtowel and a tiny apron. You jump up and down in excitement! What a gift! Then, you pick up a tiny, plastic egg, and… you throw it at your baby brother. Then you grab a pot and pan, and smashing them together like cymbals, you run around the room yelling. Instead of cooking little pretend meals for your dolls and baby brother, you spend your time slamming the fridge open and shut, open and shut, open and shut… because you can.
This is so often how we use our Christian liberty. God handed us a beautiful gift. We are all different, so we all will choose to love others differently. The church is a massive paint palette of variety in the ways we love! But rather than delighting in being given a wide range of ways to show love, we choose to slam our liberties around and loudly proclaim that no one gets to tell us what to do! After all, we’re FREE!
I love this quote by Doug Wilson… “The end or purpose of Christian liberty is the pursuit of holiness. Those who wave the banner of Christian liberty so that they might do whatever they want have not understood the doctrine at all. The point is not to drink or smoke or dance according to your own whims, but to do so before the Lord, with the increase of joy and holiness obvious to all.”
So… stand before your life, all your decisions, with the Lord. And ask, “Will this make me love you more? Will this make others love you more? Will this increase the deep well of joy provided by your sacrifice? Will this be using my freedom as you intended?”
And if the answer is “yes,” go for it!
(Regardless of what the “cool kids” think.)