Freedom from and for

Christianity teaches that Christ as set the world free from sin and death. That in Christ the world was liberated from the heavy burden of the "flesh" or "law". We are people who are free and no longer live under the oppression of guilt, worry, fear or anxiety.

Being set free from something is an amazing thing. I cannot imagine what it is like to be set free from something like slavery or being held hostage. Being set free is something that most of the time we cannot do on our own. If we were able to be free from what holds us captive on our own, then are we really held captive? Being set free is something that requires the assistance of a source outside of the person.

Being set free from something and being set free for something are related but also different. While being set free from something requires the action of an outside source, being set free for something can come from within. Once we are free from, we can decide what we are going to be free for. 

Many people upon being free from, take full advantage of this freedom and focus on living for themselves. It makes sense and I do not condemn this position. If I were held under the rule of someone or something it is very tempting to live the rest of my life living for my own self interest and desires. Having no desire to go back to oppression, it makes some logical sense that I would not want to take orders from anyone but from me. 

Many people upon being free from, take full advantage of this freedom and focus on living for others. For instance the tradition of the Bodhisattva in Mahāyāna Buddhism, in which a person reaches enlightenment (free from the cycles of death and birth) and then uses that freedom to help others also break the cycle.

This is the mandate of the Christian. Christians believe we are set free from sin and death, not so that we can live for ourselves but that we live for others.

Being free from is a miracle. Being free for is a choice. 

Rabbi going to heaven everyday

Sometime ago I heard this story, told by Rev. Jerry Chism, about a rabbi that goes to heaven everyday. I did a quick search and could not find it. Perhaps I am telling it incorrectly, but here is what I can recall. If you know this story and want to share the "real" version, please comment below.

Disciples travel to a nearby town to learn from a Rabbi who, according to the locals, goes to heaven everyday. They arrive to find the Rabbi's face glowing. After a day of learning from the Rabbi, the disciples go home. Early the next morning they arrive before dawn and hid behind the bushes to watch the Rabbi ascend to heaven. The disciples are confused when the Rabbi comes out from his home and begins to walk out of town. So they follow. Upon reaching the outer edges of town, the Rabbi begins to give his cloak to the naked, feed the hungry and bind the wounds of the hurting. he embraces to sojourner and shares words of grace to the widows. The disciples watch all this at a distance and are amazed when the Rabbi turns around to go home - his face was glowing. The disciples understood what it meant to go to heaven and from that day on the each went to heaven everyday. 


Jesus is not the only suffering servant

In the book of Isaiah there are four "Suffering Servant songs" in which the the poet speaks of a servant of God who is called to lead but is abused and destroyed. For Christians these songs are read and then quickly assume these songs are talking about Jesus. And it is easy to see connections between the "suffering servant" and the story of Jesus. (One has to wonder how much of the story of Jesus was crafted in order to "fulfill" these songs, but that is a topic for another day.)

I am not saying that these songs are not pointing to the messiah, but that these songs are not limited to just the messiah. Put another way, there is not one suffering servant.

Many Jewish traditions hold that in fact the suffering servant is not a person but a people. The people of Israel are the suffering servant. As a people, the Israelite are to be God's leaders but are mocked and suffer and self sacrifice in order to redeem the world. There is the old story that when God made the world light was broken into pieces and shattered all over the world. The call of the Jew is to go into the world and find the light and repair it. Jews are to be the ones to model for the rest of the world how to be in right relationship with one another and with God. Jews are to be light finders.

I am speaking out of turn a bit because I am not Jewish. I am Christian and as such my tradition teaches that the suffering servant is Jesus Christ. True. However, it is also true that right now, you and I make up the body of Christ. We are God's hands and feet. We are all members of the same body of which Christ is the head. 

If we are all members of the body of Christ, and Christ is the suffering servant then my extension we are called to be the suffering servants. 

Jesus is not he only suffering servant.

So are we.