Romans 8:21 - Liberation and Reformation
...the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.Romans 8:21
In this special Remembrance Day issue we call to mind those who gave their lives for the freedom of their fellow men. In our particular situation we remember the sacrifices that were made in the World Wars of the twentieth century and in other wars that took place in the more or less recent history. Most of our readers commemorate the restoration of freedom to their native lands! Our Canadian soldiers have a reputation as liberators, as men and women who restore freedom and peace wherever they are called upon to do so! We remember them thankfully, and we enjoy our freedom gratefully!
The freedom that we enjoy seems so natural, so normal to us. It’s as natural and normal almost as our breath, as the air in our lungs. This breath, however, also is a gift of the living God, of whom the apostle Paul says in Acts 17:25, “because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.” It’s a good thing, therefore, that we reflect on those things that seem natural, normal, to us. For, how free is our freedom actually? What freedom are we speaking about? Whose? Where? On Remembrance Day we may be looking back at the atrocities of the German occupation, the Japanese invasions, or the Korean War. Yet, we know that in the Balkans the weapon of revenge cannot be silenced. Of all things, people who fought together courageously against Hitler’s hordes sixty years before, have been engaged since in an ethnic cleansing in a manner just as horrible! Or what do we say of the tribal tensions in Africa, of the continued conflicts between India and Pakistan, between Israel and the Palestinians, of the nuclear threat from North Korea or Iran? What of terrorist threats from Islamic extremists against the free Western world? Freedom? Whose? In China there is freedom, but what is freedom in the sight of oppression, government controlled family-planning, abortion; what is freedom in the emptiness of a bankrupt society seeking to link up with Western capitalism? In other words, the daily reports and impressions of constraint, of slavery, of violence are more common than those of freedom!
On Remembrance Day we take the time to commemorate and to celebrate our freedom. That’s good, as long as we realize that we belong to the happy few in this world. We celebrate freedom, but we should do so in the humble awareness that the price was high and that its possession is precious and fragile! Still, there should be joy, for who would not rejoice when watching the films showing the dancing crowds, the beaming faces, the decorated tanks, and the multitude of flags on towers, buildings, and houses? Free! Who would not rejoice? A celebration of liberation is very much a well-known feature in the Bible as well. Just remember the dancing and singing of Miriam and the girls at the Red Sea. God had set them free from Egypt, liberating them from pursuing soldiers over a dry path in the midst of walls of water. “Our God is a God who saves,” says David in Psalm 68:20, “from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.” He is the God who made it for the returning captives as if they were dreaming (Psalm 126). The Holy Spirit describes the thrill of liberation very vividly in Psalm 124: “We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.” Free!
How come there is this tension: on the one hand our uncertainty due to all want of freedom, constraint, and slavery in this world, and on the other hand the exuberant joy for liberation? Well, if freedom belongs to life as breath belongs to lungs, we can only understand the want of freedom in the light of the “present suffering” of which the apostle Paul speaks in Romans 8. Due to man’s fall into sin, the natural freedom turned into the slavery to futility and mortality. In this context the apostle Paul speaks about the groaning of creation, which was subjected to its present condition by God. However, He did so not without hope! Today’s situation of fragile freedom and clouded celebration, also, is not without hope! What hope? Well, concerning this groaning creation God says in his Word, “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay.” This liberation of creation, however, is attached to the liberation of the children of God: “and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” The children of God are those, who have in Jesus Christ the liberation from the power of the evil one. They are the new people, who by faith live again in communion with the living God. If, therefore, we wait with eager longing for this freedom, this completion of our liberation, it’s no wonder we sense the tension today between the daily impressions of slavery and death and our celebration of freedom!
The suffering in this present time reminds us of the burden of our guilt, which Christ had to remove. The limitations of the true freedom enjoyed today are evident in the abuses of freedom, the inflation of liberties. However, when we know of the hope for this world, of the hope for creation, of the hope for mankind in Jesus Christ, we enjoy the present freedom more gratefully! When we believe in Christ’s victory over death and Satan, who is the beast behind all of history’s atrocities, then we celebrate our liberation more deeply! Then our freedom gives us a foretaste of the great liberation unto the glorious liberty in Jesus Christ! For that celebration, however, we need the salvation of our life through Jesus Christ, the renewal of the Holy Spirit! True liberation, therefore, cannot be without the reformation of our life! When our nation would see such a reformation in the return to the Word of God, and to the faith in Jesus Christ, we would show our gratitude to God and our appreciation for the freedom we enjoy by using this freedom in the joy of faith in Jesus Christ!