During the week of the Fourth of July, you’re supposed to think about freedom. That’s a given, right? If the holiday happened during the school year, it would be surrounded by all kinds of essays about “what does freedom mean to you?” and “what is freedom?” Just like Thanksgiving gets you the “what are you thankful for?” questions.
And that would be a good thing, it would get us thinking.
But yesterday as I meditated on freedom and what it means to me, I found myself thinking about a different type of freedom than what I was supposed to think about.
And that’s freedom from “supposed to.”
If you have any experience in the church you know that we Christians occasionally run into problems with “supposed to.” As an adult, it usually has something to do with teaching a Sunday School class, bringing food to a function or generally making oneself useful.
In middle and high school, it has more to do with not drinking , doing drugs, having sex before marriage, always speaking respectfully to your elders and looking presentable.
Now DO NOT hear me say that these “supposed to’s” aren’t important. They are. It’s important to be involved in your church, and to avoid sin. The Bible says so, and I take that very seriously.
But sometimes I think we lose sight of why we do or don’t do the things we do in the cacophony of “Because I’m supposed to.”
And I do think that’s a problem.
I think of this way. At my granddaddy’s funeral this spring, we all teared up a bit at various points, but we pretty well held it together, in public anyways. Sometimes sitting in our living room writing thank you cards to people who generously brought food and looking at pictures, we had out and out bawling sessions.
Now how do you think we’d have felt if someone we’d just met had been there visiting with us and when we started crying, they sobbed with us, tears streaming down their faces even though they barely knew our family or my granddaddy?
I can’t speak for my socially appropriate mom, dad and aunt, but I’d have felt like socking their lights out (not that I’d have done it, but I’d have thought it!)
“But why?” they might say. “It’s a funeral, you’re supposed to cry.”
But tears don’t really make sense unless their’s a lost relationship to cry over.
And good behavior doesn’t really make sense unless it’s springing out of a heart that’s clean and a relationship with someone who wants you to behave well. Otherwise your acting “right” sticks out like the loud, obnoxious tears of someone who’s just crying because she’s “supposed to.”
In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.”
So he didn’t come to say that we could stop doing what we’re “supposed to” but to make clear the reason we do those things … to stop being separated from God but instead to have a relationship with him.
And to make it possible.
Our opinion of ourselves and whether we can manage to accomplish what God wants us to do often depends on the time of day, the amount of sleep we got the night before and what kind of mood we’re in, but I’m discovering more and more that it’s more that we just can’t do it on our own, even on the good days. No, we come from a long long line of people who didn’t do what they were supposed to. I’m finally working on reading the Bible through this year, something, you’ll remember, I’ve struggled to do in the past, and as I near the end of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, the badness of people is just shocking to me. Any of the kings in that time period either did evil in the Lord’s sight, or did good but not very good. There were maybe two I can think of who did everything God wanted of them. And they still messed up. Phew.
And so what makes us think we can always do what we’re “supposed to” without Jesus’ blood?
“So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” Said Paul in Galatians 5:1-2
So let’s enjoy our freedom this week. Freedom from the law, and freedom to walk with Jesus in all he wants us to do.