This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend GCN's annual conference in Orlando. It was a great opportunity to meet people from the discussion boards and build on several friendships I'd made over the past year. Although the clouds didn't part and no dove descended from heaven accompanied by a booming voice, the conference did seem to reinforce the direction that I've been moving in over the last year or so.
On Saturday evening as I was reflecting on the day's sessions and asking God what he wanted to teach me through all of it, this verse came to mind:
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. (Galatians 5:1)
It's one of those verses that sounds great and that we sing songs about, but what does it really mean? I've heard more than one preacher proclaim that Paul is talking about our freedom to not sin. But I still sin all the time, and so does everyone else (whether or not they admit it). Ah, the preachers add, all you need to do to achieve the freedom that Christ gave us is observe these 631 rules that our denomination has determined encapsulate the relevant commands of the New Testament.
Wait a minute - more rules? That's not freedom, that's just the Law with a makeover and a new shade of lipstick. And the context of Galatians 5:1 makes it clear that it's the Law (by any other name) that Christ has freed us from.
Not that our freedom is a license to indulge in sin, but all the same we are no longer bound to worrying about how well we dot our i's and cross our t's. If we truly strive to love God, we can trust him to guide us as we seek to do what is pleasing to him.
As Augustine put it, "Love God and do as you please." Rather than worrying endlessly about whether Paul's passing references to certain exploitative forms of homosexual behavior should be expanded into a condemnation of all same-sex relationships, each person can be evaluated as an individual, based on the good or ill that flows out of their actions. As Jesus said, "by their fruit you will recognize them."
It's not as tidy as we might like (at least when it comes to keeping others in line), but then again, freedom never is.