Monday, July 31, 2017

Free From Sins

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

I will remove the guilt of this land in a single day. - Zechariah 3:9

Christ himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness. - 1 Peter 2:24

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 89:46-52; Isaiah 56,57; Colossians 2:11-23

Too often, our faith that in Christ we are "free from sins" ends up seeming - to ourselves, and to others - like we're not really very free at all. Set free by God's grace, we respond with gratitude, and of course want to live godly lives. The problem comes when we forget the part about grace, and about our freedom being all the result of Christ's work. We seem to want to take back control over our status with God - and Satan is only too glad to work to convince us that we've succeeded, that unless we hold ourselves to some (impossibly high) standard of Christian behavior, then we've failed, God doesn't really love us, and we're doomed. Then we worry so much about following every little detail of every little law that we risk losing sight of our freedom.

But God has power over this situation. "In a single day," all the guilt of all the sins of a whole nation can be erased. Over and over again, scripture reminds us bluntly and simply that what we can't do on our own, Christ has already accomplished as a free gift. We are forgiven, reconciled, set free, in his life and death and resurrection and ascension, sealed by his teaching and action and example. Done. We are free from sins.

Isaiah 56 contains God's well-known promise that "my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples," quoted by Jesus when he took a whip and turned over tables, driving the money-changers out of the part of the temple that was intended for Gentiles to come and pray. What if we apply this image to ridding ourselves of the worry and guilt that comes from slavishly following the rules, as if our salvation depended on our perfection? What if Jesus, in one swift move, wipes all those worries away? What if he wants to make space for our own hearts and minds to be a temple where we can come as we are and be at peace with God?

Colossians 2 also gives a wide degree of freedom in how Christians live:
Do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ... If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch"? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings.
What if these kinds of observations are also the sort of restriction that Jesus wants to drive out? In tomorrow's section, the same letter turns to focus on having a heart connected to God through Christ. This sounds a lot like "living for righteousness" as mentioned in today's 1 Peter verse. What if we let go of all kinds of rules and human commands and teachings, and simply follow God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit? What if we let go of the control and pride we might fleetingly feel in moments of success in rule-following, and live always and abundantly in the grace of God in Christ?

God, thank you for this deep and true freedom! Thank you for removing our guilt fully and completely. Thank you for dwelling in and among us, so that we can live in this true freedom, knowing you are our way.

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