Ethics of Christian Love: “Leap Into Freedom” (part 2 of 13)

I Corinthians 10:1-15; I John 5:1-5; Exodus 20:2-3



It is already a month ago that we introduced this series of messages on the Ethics of Christian Love by looking at the experience of the Galatian Christians.  We saw that there are two ways of seeing the moral law of God.  The one we are always tempted to go back to is to use the law as a way of trying to buy our salvation.  The result is always guilt and fear.  Or, as Christians, we can live in the Spirit of God, in love.  Then the law becomes a guide for how we are to love God.   What will we hear this morning?  Is this the statement of the all-powerful, angry God who judges, condemns and expects the impossible?  Or will we hear a loving Father and Savior giving us the roadmap that leads to freedom, fulfillment, and the expression of love?



The first thing we need to hear in the first commandment is that God is telling us about himself.  Who is this God who spoke from Sinai?  Who is this God who spoke through his prophets?  Who is this God who spoke so clearly in Jesus Christ?  Who is this God who comes to us in the Holy Spirit?

God’s people had been in slavery for 400 years.  He sent Moses to lead them out, to create out of this slave people a nation.  What did they remember about the God of Abraham after 400 years?  They saw his power in the plagues on Egypt.  They saw his might as the Red Sea parted and the Pharaoh and his army was drowned in the sea.  They saw his care in a cloud that led them by day and a pillar of fire by night, leading them to Mount Sinai where they could meet with their God.         Who is this God who spoke from Sinai and again in Jesus Christ?  I am the Lord your God who led you out of Egypt.  I am the Lord your God who works for your freedom?  I rescue you from slavery.

The first thing we need to understand this morning is that God is invested in our freedom, in our spiritual and emotional health, in our ability to live with each other in a safe and secure environment.  In other words, God did not give the law because he needed us to follow it.  He gave it for our benefit, our life, our health, our peace.  HE GAVE IT FOR US.  This is an awesome truth.  God is the Almighty, Holy, Creator, and we stand in awe as we should.  God is also our Father, our loving liberator from slavery, our covenant God who is invested in building relationship with us, the God who sent his Son to free us from guilt, anxiety, fear, sin and judgment by paying the price of our freedom.  This is the God who speaks.  This is what John meant.  To begin to see what God has done for us, to begin to comprehend his love draws out of us a love in return.  How do we love him?  “We observe his commands,” says John, “and they are not irksome.”  Why are they not irksome?  Because the world, the broken world we live in, enslaves us, but through faith in Jesus Christ we triumph over the slavery of this world.

This takes us to a kind of irony.  We are deal with law that gives freedom.  It seems at first to be a bit contradictory.  Law limits our behavior.  How does law give us freedom?  What is freedom?  It is one of our greatest values.  We have been willing to fight and die for political freedom – freedom from slavery and tyranny.  We have been willing to fight and die for other people’s freedom from tyranny.  Freedom is also something that God wants for us.  However, in an individualistic society we begin to define freedom as being about doing whatever I want whenever I want.  We are tempted to define freedom as not having boundaries.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  But, the struggle with this constantly ties up our courts – where are the boundaries between individual rights and the rights of others and society?  There was a recent court case about child-pornography that demonstrated the point.

God is telling us that freedom is about living, about value of persons, about living together in security and safety, about trust and love, about being responsible in our roles and relationships.  Freedom is about joy, fulfillment, meaning in our lives.  That is why at least 7 of the 10 commandments are a part of every society that continues to exist.

Allow me a simple example.  Lets say that I decide I want to be free to drive 90 kmh down 13th Ave out here in front of the church.  What am I doing?  I am saying I am free to get myself killed or to kill someone else who happens to cross the street.  And if I am free to do that, so is everyone else, and now I am not safe to cross the street – and the net result is that everyone of us are enslaved by fear and insecurity.  It turns out that is not freedom at all.  Most people realize this need for traffic laws, but so many in our society think they can find freedom by stepping outside of moral law.

People are constantly striving for that which will give them freedom – to be valued and loved, to have the right to be who we are, to be safe and secure, to enjoy life, to have hope.  We work hard to free ourselves from the slavery of poverty.  We educate ourselves to be free from the slavery of ignorance.  We learn social skills to be free from the slavery of loneliness.  We could go on and on.  In fact, we could say that the freedom a person strives for defines their greatest fears and what is most important to them.  We in fact worship, give highest priority to that which we think will give us freedom.

God is saying to us this morning: “I am the God who is invested in your freedom.  I am the God who rescues people from the tyranny of Egypt (always a symbol in the Bible for the enslavement of sin).  I want you to be free, and this is how you do it.  Worship only me.  Have no other Gods before me.”  How does worshiping God alone free us?  Lets look at the alternatives.  I recently ran across a list of ancient Roman gods and goddesses.  Looking through the list it struck me that the only difference between the ancients and us is that they named their gods, their idols, their replacements for the one true God.  Let me share just a couple of them with you, see if they sound familiar.

MOIRAI was the goddess of fate.  She was the one responsible for the way things went, the way thing turn out when people have no control over them or do not want to be responsible.  One of her modern names might be THEY.  “They” start all the vicious rumors… They have already decided the issues… They expect how I should act and what I should say… They don’t like me… They will only accept me if I obey what They want.  There are no altars to they that I know of in the lower mainland, but worship of they happens every time people compromise their own values to look, act, and live the way others expect them to.  This old goddess invades every group from drop-outs to the radicals to the high-school to the church.  Worship of they demands complete obedience and the payoff is acceptance.  There is no freedom to be a unique person, to decide what is right and wrong.  I wonder how many people worship at the feet of they thinking they are free.

NARCISSUS was the god of self.  The legend is that this god was a little different from all the other gods and did some strange things because of his experience of falling in love with his own reflection in a pool.  Self is the measure and end of all existence.  The ultimate question in life is: What is in it for me?  The worship of Narcissus breaks up families, destroys character and personality, invades the halls of justice, threatens to destroy our environment, is a part of foreign policy, and constantly attacks community.  Narcissus’ followers can sound so loyal with slogans of our race, our color, our church, our form of government, our economic system.  It is all a liturgy of me and my.  It is about self-pity, and I am against it if it doesn’t serve me.  I wonder how many people serve Narcissus and think they are free, even after they have lost their freedom to give, love and share in their being only concerned about number 1.

BACCHUS was the god of pleasure: of wine, sports, fun.  He is so very flexible.  He can come in a glass, a joint, or he can look like living for the pleasure of vacation.  The true believer offers his all for the sake of pleasure, of course, in the name of freedom.

EROS was the god of sex, of physical attraction and sensual indulgence.  Eros is very clever and very popular because he looks like so much fun.  His followers very often are looking for meaningful relationships as a way out of their loneliness, but he has them worshiping at the feet of their feelings and sensations.  Eros is always a substitute for the freedom of real love.  He promises the joy of intimacy and gives the slavery of endless seeking and loneliness in using other people.

PLUTUS was the god of material values.  He enslaves his followers with the freedom of insatiable desire for me.  I’ll be happy and fulfilled with a better home, a nicer car, more money, etc. etc.  Plutus is alive and well.

VESTA was the god of provincialism, the god of reactionary politics and reactionary religion.  This is the god of the “good old days.”  He offers security in keeping things the same, avoiding the challenge of the moment, avoiding change, the god of “we always did it that way.”

Old gods don’t die, they just become more subtle.  Idolatry in all of its forms promise freedom, give for a moment, then enslave and addict.



Our God, the God who gives freedom, comes to us today and says, “Don’t have any other gods before me.”  The gods of this world are little, abortive attempts to meet your needs in ways that only produce new forms of slavery.  All of those gods promise you freedom that is tied to right now – no past – no future!  They require the most irksome sacrifice: ultimate emptiness, which is another name for death.  They offer the ultimate lie.  They say “freedom” and mean “slavery.”

“Worship me, love me, obey my commands which are not irksome if you are in my love, and you will conquer the world with all its little gods.”  God says, “I made you.  I know what the freedom you seek really is – LIFE.  I built the desire into you, the desire to be free, to be persons, to be able to give and receive love with out the fear that produces slavery.  This is a part of your nature.”  LEAP INTO FREEDOM – LOVE AND OBEY ME.

The ethics of Christian love begins with loving and worshiping the only God who has invested in our freedom.  He offers real personhood, real emotional and spiritual and relational health.  The warning of Paul confronts us: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.”  The gods of this world are very tempting and seductive.  We stop today and ask again.  Who is our God?  What do we worship?  What is the real source of our freedom?  Are we moving toward greater freedom, or greater slavery?  Do we worry more or less?  Are we conquers of our world in Christ or its slaves.  The only real God calls us to freedom by rejecting all other gods, worshiping only him.