Welcome Back! Today marks the beginning of our monthly guest posts to celebrate the Year of Story. I have the privilege of introducing my friend Mara Clements, a caring leader of women at MOPS and another group called Table. Her journey of freedom in the Lord is her blessing for us today:
Mara’s passion is to see men and women, inside and outside the Church, set free by the Good News of unconditional love and acceptance of God through Jesus Christ. She received her BA in Biblical Studies from Eastern University. You can see her published work in Thryve Magazine at http://www.thryvemag.com.
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.
-The Apostle Paul, Galatians 5, NIV
In many faith communities, freedom can seem like the redheaded stepchild of the Faith Family. We see it, maybe mention it, but we don’t give it the full attention it deserves. I looked up the crude phrase in the urban dictionary (because that’s how I roll) and it defined redheaded stepchild as a person or group treated without the favor of birthright.
And that’s when I lost it. Because that is what I experienced in my own religious communities. Freedom was never acknowledged as a birthright! On the contrary, it was something you had to work for, something you had to earn, or it was something you couldn’t experience until you died. It was often labeled as suspicious, scary, even outright dangerous. We had to be careful not to get too much of it. We needed to make sure others didn’t get too much of it either. I remember hearing and repeating on too many occasions that God had done so much for me, the least I could do was give my life to him. The implied message I heard was not one of thanksgiving for God’s goodness, but one of duty and shame if I didn’t repay the favor. Where grace could have been championed, instead I heard that Jesus got me into the kingdom, and now it’s my job to stay in his favor and good graces. But where is the freedom in any of that? All I hear is transaction and a “responsibility” instead of the “ability to respond” to and an outpouring of God’s great love for me.
But if Christ (who embodies redemption and freedom) was around since creation , and was part of the plan to rescue us from our shame since the beginning , then we have always been invited into freedom, which is relationship with God, the abundant life. That is our birthright. Relationship with the Holy Creator. No wonder the apostle John tells us that our fear can be cast out if we believe in this perfect love (1 John 4:18). This love that counts us worthy to be called children of God, just because we were born. And the apostle Paul is bold to say in Romans 8, that nothing can separate us from this love. Death and grief cannot separate us, regret from past relationships and anger toward an abuser cannot separate us, fear of the future and worry about our worth cannot separate us, disappointment and adversity cannot separate us. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).”
I understand that freedom can be a scary thing, because it cannot be regulated and contained, but slavery is a much scarier thing to me. Whether I’m controlled by a person, by my past, by my fear of ending up alone, slavery is more than a burden and a yoke, it is death. Life apart from freedom is no life at all. We were created for so much more.
Now when I am contemplating truth on my own or in community, I ask myself two things: does what I’m hearing magnify my savior and redeemer, and does it make me free (John 8:32). Not free to do whatever I want. Free to respond to God’s love for me with love for others, whether or not it’s returned. Free from fear and shame because I am secure in my God-given value. Free from the pressure to do more and achieve perfection because Jesus did that for me. I refuse to go back to the yoke of slavery and the burden of shame that tells me I’m not worth life and love and peace unless I get it all right. We were created and rescued FOR freedom. Once we acknowledge it, we can accept it, and once we accept it, we can give it the attention it deserves and watch it begin to change us from the inside out.
I appeal to you, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to
God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
-The Apostle Paul, Romans 12:1, ESV