By Michael Sherer, executive director of technology services and innovation
This week’s theme: Freedom Bound: The Path of Love
As I recall, the first Bible verse children in my home church learned was 1 John 4:8, “God is Love.” The astuteness of that choice still astounds me, because if someone asked you to sum up the teachings of the Bible in 10 letters or less, that would be your answer: “God is Love.” Not long after committing those three words to memory, we learned the song “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” By the age of three, the children of the church had internalized the theological foundation of the faith in those 15 words: that the nature of God is love, that Jesus, God’s Son, loves me, that I can know and claim that love because the Bible tells me the story of Jesus’ love in a way that is authoritative and trustworthy. And yet, if the essence of Christian faith can be distilled down to 15 simple words, why do even the followers of Jesus struggle to live out the faith? Implicit in this week’s theme, “Freedom Bound: The Path of Love,” is the notion that, despite the love of God and Jesus showing us the path, we are not yet free. The enslaving powers of this world are active, powerful and seductive. Regardless of where we stand in our Christian walk, we would all do well to ask ourselves ‘what am I enslaved by?’
For many of us, it would be fear. Daily we are bombarded by messages that we should fear something—terrorists, Muslims, immigrants, gays, conservatives, liberals, fundamentalists, socialists, tea partiers, blacks, whites, latinos, the police, Obama, Trump, the 1%, the poor—you name it, the object of our fear is one step away from destroying our way of life and all that we hold dear. Fear is deeply rooted in our being. The fight-or-flight mechanisms that allowed our ancestors to survive in the wild are easily manipulated into causing us to hate and objectify the object of fear. You can’t love what you fear.
Others of us are enslaved by the notion that we are unworthy of being loved. We are not skinny enough, pretty enough, smart enough, rich enough, witty enough, good enough to deserve the love of God or anyone else.
Still for others, it would be that we are enslaved by our own bad decisions. In Greek, ‘to sin’ translates literally ‘to miss the mark.’ We all miss the mark, daily. But for some of us, our bad decisions have far reaching consequences that are difficult to escape.
And yet in every situation, the love of God and Jesus can show us the path away from bondage to freedom. The people we fear are more like us than unlike us. Within the act of loving the ‘other’ lies the power to transform not only that person but ourselves. The love of God and Jesus affirms our own worth. Even at our lowest point, God still loves us. Even when we miss the mark badly, God extends grace that allows us to begin again—moving toward freedom in Christ.
God, in this Christmas season, grant us the grace and wisdom to understand where the powers of this world still bind us. Help us to experience the transforming power of your love made manifest in Christ and the community of believers, to be transformed by it, and it to extend to those around us, even the ‘other’ and the ‘enemy.’ Amen.