For me, one of the highlights that also doubles as a huge challenge of being a youth minister is responding to the tough questions. I'm not talking about the where do babies come from question. It's more along the lines of big words such as predestination, God's sovereignty, sanctification, and pepperoni pizza.
Very recently, I was confronted by one such teenager asking one such question. I am currently on vacation, so it was exponentially more challenging to sit back and think about what my response would be. This 15-year-old student asked a quite involved question about our faith, "Why does the Bible talk about giving freedom, but is very closed minded about a lot of topics?"
A discussion with this student challenged me to sit back and think about my faith and how I live out my faith. I don't view it as a coincidence that my quiet time this past week or so have been centered on the book of Galatians. In his straight forward, no nonsense letter to the church in Galatia, Paul warned the Galatians against choosing to live in slavery while God has given us freedom. There's that word again.
As I mentioned earlier, I work with teenagers age 12 to 18. In my interactions with my teens, it's very obvious that they have a very specific way of thinking about freedom. Freedom, to these teens, is the permission and the ability to do whatever the heck they want. To them, freedom means no curfews, no vegetables, no showers (ick!), no school, no homework. At this point, I have to correct my earlier statement. Teenagers aren't the only people thinking about freedom in this way. I do too!
Song after song after song has tried to communicate this message. All the way from Frank Sinatra's "My Way," Bon Jovi's "It's My Life," Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way," even One Direction's "Live While We're Young." These tunes are catchy and often get stuck in my head, but they communicate the world's idea of freedom. Let me do things the way I want to do them. No rules. No one telling me what I can or cannot do.
Is that what true freedom is like in Christ?
The beginning of Galatians 5 always have a way of knocking the socks off my feet. Paul wrote,
Christ is the one who set us free and the purpose is that we live a life of freedom, not so that we succumb to sin. There seems to be two extremes in the Galatian church at the time: people that became very legalistic about following Jesus and the people who thought that because Christ had given them salvation they can just do whatever they want - even sin!
Paul had heard about that was happening and wrote to warn them.
I fall into both of these categories at different times. Sometimes, I feel like God and I are solid, so that makes me better than everyone else. Then I think that others have to do what I do to follow Jesus. Dress a certain way, talk a certain way, minister a certain way. I often force people (in my head) to fit my mold of who they should be in Christ, while Christ has set us free so that we can be more like Jesus. Other times, I feel like I have the option of choosing the wrong thing because God's grace is always going to be there, right?
Needless to say, Paul's letter to the Galatians challenged my sense of freedom in my faith.
As I continued to read Galatians 5, I was intrigued by something Paul wrote a little bit later on,
People who choose to follow Jesus and acknowledge Jesus' lordship over their lives are called to freedom. Freedom is a call, rather than a state of being. To live in freedom, is to be rid of condemnation and empowered by the Spirit to love and serve others. Freedom in Christ does not mean doing whatever we want no matter what the consequences may be. Instead, it means living with a purpose. It means living with a call. Freedom in Christ has to do with the call to be empowered to love others. It means we are freed from the yoke of thinking only of ourselves.
Rather than a self-centric view of freedom, Jesus has called us to gain a relational view of freedom. One that he modeled. His relationship with his Father didn't limit who he was and what he could do. He wasn't forced to endure the cross. He wanted to because, for him, his Father's will is his will. His Father's love is His too.
For us as followers of Jesus, we have a relationship with him, and it's wonderful! Our relationship with Christ doesn't limit who we are and what we can do. We intentionally choose to live lives that glorify God and we choose to love people because we want to share in Jesus' passion and mission.
Friends, may we bask in true freedom as we carry the call to live and love like Jesus.
Pst... Have you heard about the giveaway that we have going on currently? Scroll back to Thursday's post and you can read all about it. Check it out and get entered today!