FAITH SEEKING UNDERSTANDING: Chapter 6: What Is Christian Freedom?

by Steve Albertin

Today Steve tackles the tough subject of Christian freedom and cheap grace. As he states, one of biggest criticisms of Crossings and Luther is that both promoted the notion of CHEAP GRACE, that is “Now that you don’t have to be saved you can do anything you want.” Luther addressed this contradiction in his famous essay “The Freedom of the Christian.” He said that as a Christian, you are FREE: lord of all and subject to no one.

And as a Christian, you are a dutiful SERVANT, and subject to everyone. This is no cheap grace but rather a description of the Christian who is FREE to SERVE all in need.

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Over the years, one of the biggest criticisms of not only Martin Luther and Lutheranism, but the Crossings community is that we are weak on works. You’re just promoting what Dietrich Haer made famous, that phrase, you’re just promoting cheap grace. You know how it goes now that you don’t have to do anything to be saved. Christ did it all for you. I mean, now you can do anything you want. The famous English poet and critic WH Auden once said it well when he put it like this, oh, God loves to forgive sins. I like to commit them. Isn’t the world admirably arranged that criticism was not new. Luther heard that criticism a allotted his day Crossings community continues to hear it today. Perhaps the best response, at least that Luther offered, and he didn’t invent this. He got his ideas from the New Testament. And guys like Jesus and Paul in his famous document of 1520, entitled The Freedom of the Christian.

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And the key thing to remember about this document, freedom of the Christian, I think one of the primary purposes that Luther has in mind here is namely, how can we get good works done in a world that needs our good works without losing the good news of Jesus Christ? And Luther begins that with this contradictory phrase. He says, at the same time, we are free and a servant or a slave, he says, Christians are free. Free from everyone. We are lords of all and subject to no one in Christ. At the same time, Christians are dutiful servants, slaves, subject to everyone, to all of our neighbors, to contradictory things that are really talking about two freedoms. Freedom from and freedom for in Christ. We are free from bondage to the self internally, this thing we call sin, all of our excuse making the infamous yabos disease, our unbelief, our insecurities and despair. We are free from that in Christ. Internally, externally, Christ sets us free from the law which always comes to us from out there in accusations and judgments and expectations and pressures to measure up. And finally, even God’s own criticism,

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Free from all of that to be free, for free, for loving and serving others free for doing good works. And as Luther reminded us, in fact, I got to remind a lot of people, Mike Congregation today, the best place to do these works is not in a monastery, not inside the church, but what you’re doing out there every day in the world, in your vocations, in your callings, and how you serve your neighbor, seeking justice, making this world a better place. That those are good works that we always get to do. We don’t have to do them. And the source of our freedom for all of that is Jesus Christ. Which in turn creates another phrase I would like to swipe from another famous Luther. Indeed grander creates a worldly Christianity. Christianity is to be very worldly. Not that we’re conformed to the world or imitate the world, but we are free for the world. I mean, truly free with no hidden agendas, nothing that we’re trying to get out of it for ourselves. That’s all been taken care of in Christ. We are truly free from the world to be truly for the world and to love the world in a way which really isn’t possible without Christ. That is what it means to be free freedom of the Christian and to get good works done without compromising the good news and freedom of Jesus Christ. Isn’t that great?

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In the early 1970s two seminary professors listened to the plea of some lay Christians. “Can you help us live out our faith in the world of daily work?” they asked. “Can you help us connect Sunday worship with our lives the other six days of the week?”  That is how Crossings was born.

 

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