It Was For Freedom That Christ Set Us Free
“It Was For Freedom That Christ Set Us Free”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 26, 2016
Readings: 1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21; Psalm 16
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Ordinary Time does not mean ordinary according to the standards of the world. We define this season of Ordinary Time according to what Christ has given us. He has set us free! “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1). It was for this purpose that Christ came – to destroy the works of the evil one, set us free from a yoke of slavery, and give us new life.
When God created man, His plan was to give him a life of perfection. Man didn’t have to struggle and sweat in order to live because God provided him with everything he would ever need. When man disobeyed, from the moment he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he began to live in death. The soil didn’t yield food until it was tilled, the sun didn’t always shine, and the world and life were no longer the paradise that God created them to be. Man had to go through suffering to live, and all this came about because man disobeyed God. Man was separated from God because of sin. Christ came to restore our right standing with God. He came to destroy the works of the devil. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10). Through the work of Christ, God gave us LIFE to the greatest extent.
Elisha gave up his livelihood and everything he had when Elijah “passed over to him and threw his mantle to him” after the Lord instructed him to anoint Elisha as prophet in his place. “So….he took the pair of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the implements of the oxen, and gave it to the people and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah and ministered to him.” (1 Kings 19:21). Elisha burnt his bridges so that he would never be tempted to go back to his old way of living.
We see the same commitment to the call of God in Christ. In the Gospel, Christ was set to fulfill His mission, even if He knew that it would mean He would suffer and die for it. “When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him….” (Luke 9:51-53). The Lord’s disciples were so mad that the people in the Samaritan village did not receive Him that they wanted to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them. But the Lord rebuked His disciples and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (verses 55-56). Christ came to give us life, life to the fullest. He gave us a life of freedom (to be what God created us to be), not a life of stress, anxiety and pain. This life does not destroy but saves and restores. He gave us the example of His life to follow. He gave us the commandment to love our enemies. Instead of destroying them, we are to restore our enemies or those who hurt us because Christ’s life is also in them. This isn’t easy to do but it is possible because the love of Christ is in our hearts.
Today, the Lord reminds us that because of this new life He has given us, even if we die, we live. No one and nothing can take away this life that Christ gave us. It was for freedom that Christ set us free. We are no longer in bondage to condemnation of our sins.
We all have experienced how anger affects us, even our health. The negative emotions that go with anger robs us of energy and steals away the life and peace given by Christ. Things get progressively worse as we keep this anger in our hearts, to the point that we literally get sick and experience physical pain. Instead of staying angry, we should remind ourselves that the love of God has been poured in our hearts and we can overcome the anger and the hatred because greater is He in us than He who is in the world. You and I have been given the ability to solve and overcome our problems. We do this by bringing the life that Christ gave us to the forefront. This gives us the ability to serve God and others in love.
One of the most destructive things that we can do is to gossip. This has become a favorite past time for many. We destroy people when we spread ugly rumors about them. And even if what we spread is true, it is still wrong to do so if what we say will hurt another. We are instruments of peace. Our responsibility is to restore, not destroy. People may mock us for not taking revenge but loving the enemy instead, but in the end, we will find ourselves on top.
It was for freedom that Christ set us free. Slavery is being driven to do things for one’s own gain. This is what we do when we work only for money, or when our motivation in doing something is purely selfish. Slavery is being driven to be admired for our physical appearance, or for what we have accomplished or what we have (our material possessions). We are the wealthiest people on earth because we have Christ who supplies all our needs. It takes faith for God’s provision to come into our lives. We have to believe that before the bill is due, God’s provision will come. Through Christ, we’ve been given everything we will ever need. This is what “fullness of life” means. But it takes faith to attain this.
We are a blessed people! This is why no matter what happens, we put our faith in God. Last week, I was challenged about going to the farm. It rained all week and the roads had become muddy and slippery. I had to drive myself to the farm and I was reminded of my accident in the truck going through that same road when it was muddy and slippery. I was anxious about taking that road so I prayed and asked God to stop the rain. But I quieted my heart and mind, and I told God that if He wanted it to rain, then let it be. I had peace, and that gave me the confidence to drive in the rain and pass by the very spot where my truck almost rolled down. This peace gives us confidence, gets rid of the fear and brings God’s abilities into our lives to address and overcome our problems.
We have all sinned and the mercy of God has touched all of us. God will never fail. Many people today live in hell. People who don’t believe in God and the freedom He gave us are living in hell. They are like the walking dead. There’s no need for us to fear. Peace will come if we banish fear from our lives. This is what Ordinary Time is all about. Being sick in a hospital is not the life that Christ came to give us. Christ bore our stripes for our healing, not for sickness. He supplies all our needs. He promised that He will not fail us. The problem lies in our lack of confidence in what God has done for us.
When a problem comes, we must face it squarely and conquer it, reminding ourselves that we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places, far above all powers that may come against us. I challenge us to begin to live the new life we’ve been given. Our church should be a church of freedom – we do what we do because we want to do them, and not because we have to. We come to church because we want to praise God for His greatness in our lives. We give of our time, talents and resources because we’re thankful for what God has done for us. Great is our God! No one can take away His greatness and blessings upon our lives. The only way the enemy can affect us is if we allow him. This is Ordinary Time; the great things that come with this new life we’ve been given are “ordinary” in the eyes of God. The “miraculous” as the world defines it should be ordinary for us in this new life.