(In honor of Reformation Day this month, Wisdom Wednesday will be looking into Martin Luther’s brief yet powerful work Concerning Christian Liberty)
A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone. -Martin Luther
The more I have been processing what sets Christianity apart from other world religions, the more I have become convinced that love differentiates it from the other great world religions.
Now please hear me out though, and hear what I am not saying.
I am neither saying that other religions lack an element of love in their message, nor am I saying other adherents do not love. What I am trying to say is that Christianity has sacrificial love at its core.
Luther is arguing in his work Concerning Christian Liberty that freedom is rooted in the sacrificial love of Christ. I highlighted this aspect in my Bonheoffer series previously, but for our purposes here, for those who follow Jesus, they are called to also follow Jesus by serving others.
Notice in the quote above how service flows out of identity. By being in Christ, they are most “free of all people”; yet out of this freedom they are called to serve others. Paul would phrase it that Christ knew his place, that all authority was given to him, and out of this position (which is huge!) he chose to empty himself (see Philippians 2:1-11).
I will never tire of saying this, but if you are in Christ, you are free. But if you are free, then the next step is to serve others.
Honestly, I don’t like hearing this, but Christians are called to be a different community, we are blessed to be a blessing. We are free from sin and death, oh please grasp that point.
If you are in Christ, you are free. You are free like the tree transplanted in good soil, free to flourish and produce beauty and fruit. Similarly, Christians are also planted in good soil and are free to flourish. They are free to bear fruit and bless others because they are free.
Follow Jesus and be free. Be free and serve all.
The Bible is a really old book.
Has that thought ever come to mind? What about these ones:
It’s kind of old fashioned and the book should be placed in a museum. I mean, it has crazy stories in it and a few good lessons, but we all know that our post modern (or remnants of modernist) way is superior, right?
Consider this for a second.
What if we are not superior to the Bible? What if we have no place to sit and judge over this book?
Maybe Scripture is fully human and yet divine at the same time. What if God decided to use a diverse amount of people to communicate the Grand Drama of God redeeming the world by using human words? Maybe it still literally retains God’s voice in this book? Is it possible? What do you think?
Our minds are full of violence. Even the noble ideals of the Enlightenment philosopher in Europe ended up in the Great Terror of Revolutionary France. Even the workers paradise of the communist experiment ended up in the horrors of the Maoist, Stalinist, and other communist regimes. Even the noble ideals of the Manifest Destiny pushed Native Americans to death and small reservations. Humanity has produced some horrors, sadly they even come in the name of God.
But what if we were called to something else. Called to take on a new mind, one that is not filled with Holocaust and hate, but humility and grace?
The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 2:5-8,
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Maybe Jesus’ insights were superior than the insights of the French Revolution, that we have a responsibility over a right. I think the community of Christ followers might do well to make responsibility as a foundation to life instead of our rights. After all, we might be free to eat meat offered to idols, but out of love for others who might stumble, we ought to give up those rights (see I Corinthians 8). Or as Luther would put it, “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject of all, subject to all.”
Let’s follow Jesus and lay down our rights so that we might bring the good news of God’s work in Jesus to all. An ambassador for the Kingdom of God is certainly founded in responsibility of representing Jesus.