by Pastor Noel Due
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For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me’ (Romans 15:3).
This verse appears in a section of Scripture devoted to Christian freedom. That’s where things often become unstuck.
Christian freedom (in Paul’s setting around issues like eating meat sacrificed to idols) is not the excuse to flaunt your liberty against the weaker faith or less free conscience of others. Instead, it is the freedom to be what you need to be in the context of your fellowship.
Martin Luther wrote: ‘a Christian is the most free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is most dutiful servant of all, and subject to all’. The pattern and model for this is Christ. As the freest man who had ever lived, Jesus lived not for his own sake but for the sake of us, the ‘unfree’. The question is not ‘What am I free to do?’ but ‘Whom am I free to serve?’
In Paul’s context, that meant not forcing a person to go against their conscience in the matter of food or other cultural sensitivities. The power for this is what God has done for us in Christ.
Paul quotes Psalm 69:9, applying it to Jesus. He bore our blaming, reproaches or anger against God, even though he was free of any of them. Jesus didn’t blame God for his sufferings or blame us for our weakness. Rather, he served us in his freedom so that we (who were bound by our sin and angry reproaching of God) could be free. That’s the pattern for our fellowship also: how do we bear one another’s burdens, and what will bring the most blessing to those among whom we serve?
Most loving Heavenly Father, we thank you for your humble grace, which serves us through Christ, giving us freely what we could never earn. Thank you for the gift of Christ’s cross, where he bears our angry and reproachful actions and attitudes towards you, not blaming us for them but delivering us from their evil. May we live in the fullness of that blessing so that we may be a blessing to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.