Preparation for Worship
The sociologist Robert Belah observed that for Americans, freedom is our most important value. But what does freedom really mean? For most modern Americans, freedom means the absence of restraints and the ability to define one’s own existence. This definition of freedom is literally codified by our Supreme Court. The Corinthian Christians, too, boasted in the freedom they had as Roman citizens, but also the new found freedom from the law they had through Christ. Freed from the constraints of the law, they now relished in the exercising of their personal rights. And this notion of freedom was tearing their community apart.
Paul writes of a different kind of freedom, a cruciform freedom. Like everything we have looked at in this series, he commends a way of approaching life and freedom that is completely upside-down. In Paul’s vision, freedom is not the absence of restraints or the exercising of personal rights, but freedom rather is the ability to release your rights for the sake of another’s benefit. He models to the Corinthians the many ways that he has personally renounced his rights in order to do everything possible to commend the gospel to others and to love his brothers and sisters in the Lord. Though he is free and belongs to no one, through Christ he has made himself a servant to all (9:19). This vision of freedom is grounded in Jesus himself, who though being the freest person to ever live, chose to not exercise his rights but lay them down for the sake of love (Phil 2:1-11). We are most free not when we can do whatever we want, but when we give ourselves wholly to the love of God and neighbor.
As you prepare for worship this Sunday, consider how this vision of freedom is so counter to what freedom has now become in modern America. Are there examples in your life where you may have the “right” to something but God may be calling you to lay it down or give it up for the sake of love? Are there small ways in your daily life you can chose the way of self-denial, putting the needs and interests of others before your own? As one who is now in union with Jesus and therefore completely free in him, you are liberated to lose your life for the sake of others as Christ has lost his life for you. This is the way of cruciform freedom.
Our weekly worship guide can be found here.
1 Corinthians 9:19-27, 10:23-24
9. 19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
10. 23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.