I was recently challenged by a question a friend asked me: “Doesn’t it bother you that in Christian marriages, each spouse will always love someone [God] more than the other person?” This friend was not a Christian and so I was tasked with explaining how Christians are called to put our relationship with God before others. I began with what I thought was an appropriate, albeit cliché answer, “Well, by loving God more, we can love the spouse better,” as I simultaneously thought to myself, I have no idea what I am talking about. I am in my 20s, single, never married, and here I am throwing out things which sound right but have never experienced, nor really thought through. What came next was a revelation to me. I began to explain what I meant by my cliché, but I said words I had never thought or spoken before and I was sure God was teaching me more than this friend. I began to explain the freedom Christ gives us, and how this makes every relationship better.
Now, I don’t want to talk only about Christ-centered marriage because this principal applies to so much more. Freedom. It is an often-used word in the Christian vocabulary: freedom from the law and freedom from sin (Galatians 5). But what is not often talked about is freedom to do what? I get the freedom from, but what about the freedom for? We are free from death, from slavery to sin, free from the burden of the law, I get that part. What comes after this freedom? This subject is admittedly large and certainly not fit for a small blog post, but I will say this about freedom: when my identity and my salvation and my righteousness are in Christ, I am free to live a fuller life; a better story. I am free take more risks in life because failure does not mean I am a failure – because Christ has said I am worthy. I am free to be more transparent with my community and I may be rejected because of my honesty about my sin and struggles – but Christ has said I am accepted as his child. I am free to more radically love others (yes spouses, but also friends, coworkers and enemies) even if it is not reciprocated or not welcomed – because Christ alone is my source of hope and I am not dependent on what others give me in return.
In his wonderful book, Culture Making, Andy Crouch draws similar connections between freedom and the Christian’s ability to be great culture makers in this world. Crouch makes a distinction between “postures” and “gestures,” saying that when we have good posture, we are free to make any number of gestures but if we have bad posture, our gestures are limited. He speaks of dancers and athletes who have a freedom to make difficult gestures because they have good, physical, posture. As followers of Jesus Christ, our posture, our bone structure, our foundation is Jesus. The freedom of having this unshakable posture allows us to make any number of gestures. We are defined by our posture – our identity is found in good news of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – not by the gestures we make. But we can more boldly make gestures, more boldly love our spouses, take risks, be vulnerable and more creatively engage in culture-making, all because of the freedom the gospel gives to us.
Now, go be free. Not just free from, but free for.
Andy Crouch, Culture Making, (Dowers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 2008), 98.