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Freedom and Forgiveness

Stephanie Olson (Manitowoc, Wisc.; WordAlone board member)

January 13, 2007

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery... You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Galatians 5:1, 13-14

photo of Ms. OlsonAs a lifelong Lutheran Christian, I know personally the freeing forgiveness and grace of my Lord Jesus Christ. In my five plus decades of life I have struggled with temptation, and at times I have given opportunity to the selfish desires of my own weak "flesh," and had to be freed again from such bondage. I have personally known the redemptive power of Jesus in my life and observed it in the lives of others. I have known what it is like to be in bondage, to be freed and the need to be freed again. God's grace in Christ is free and limitless and I personally appreciate it, daily.

It is not because of anything that I do in any way to make myself "good enough" that I receive God's grace. I have humbly become aware that I can never do that. I accept God's grace like the criminal, who when dying on a cross next to Jesus, simply recognized his own sin, Jesus' innocent suffering, called upon Jesus for His grace with "Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!" and was promised a place in heaven (Luke 23:40-43).

But why, knowing this, have I grown to have an even greater respect for the Law, with a capital "L"? I have come to understand that our faithful, loving, forgiving God is not binding us unnecessarily with rules to keep us from full lives, or to keep us out of heaven. Rather it is because we are still living here on this earth. I believe the Law is still important in my daily life and the lives of others because of the simple truth that while we are living here, we are bound to the world by our weak earthly bodies. God knows all too well that we still have to live here in this world. We have to live with the consequences of our choices and the choices of others as long as we live here. When someone breaks the Law, someone gets hurt. Sadly, I have seen it repeatedly:

  • A man and wife, with two children, divorce. They spend years struggling with how to meet the needs of the children who are then forced to live in two different homes.
  • A young person is tempted to play with sex to "discover" his or her sexuality, tries it and later learns he or she is HIV positive, and is at risk of giving a death sentence to his or her future wife, husband or child, when their physical intimacy is truly an act of love.
  • A person is tempted and tries alcohol or drugs and is not able to stop. She uses the family resources to buy drugs instead of food or clothing.
  • A person drives while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and kills with a car.
  • A man is jealous of another's fancy boat and slanders his reputation with gossip.

And the list goes on and on and on.

In C.S. Lewis' fictional description of the resurrection of King Caspian in the final chapter of "The Silver Chair," Caspian, in his new body, which is neither old nor young, wonders if something he wants to do would be wrong. Aslan assures the former king of Narnia, "You cannot want wrong things any more, now that you have died, my son."

But, if you are reading this you have not died. You are still living here and while we live here in this world, we are subject to the Law, as God gave it to us, and the consequences, here in this world, when we disobey him. We must continue to respect the Law as a warning and a guide to keep us from hurting self or others. To do otherwise is to "play God" in dangerous ways, setting up self or others for hurt and pain.