Freedom, and communion. It’s important that we put each in its proper place. One describes how we live, but the other is true life’s source and sustenance.
My first taste of freedom in a religious context involved a cracker and some grape juice.
Once a month at church the ushers would pass around a mid morning snack, and my father would forbid me to partake. The injustice of it all was galling. I had heard that Jesus liked kids, but my elders possessed some secret knowledge that I apparently did not, and my ignorance sat like chains and shackles upon a young spirit that longed for freedom and something to eat.
Well, there came a day when I was prepared with all the right answers. I was barely able to see the preacher without standing on the pew, but I had been listening. When my dad asked me what I thought communion was all about, my answer was King-James perfect and I was allowed to grab a tiny helping as the crumbs and cups were passed.
“Mm mm,” I exclaimed! “That’s good!” And although I didn’t think such a small amount would satisfy me until lunch, I was quite pleased with myself. In hindsight, the subsequent cuff upside the head is something a more astute young lad may have seen coming.
Over time I came to understand a couple important things about the freedom that I so desperately hungered for. The first thing was that the liberty I sought had already been planned for, bought, and delivered long before I knew the difference between a Saltine and authentic Unleavened. The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians church is rich with passion as he expounds on the wonder of grace. He makes it quite clear that communion free from religious regulation is a God-breathed wonder; something to be celebrated and worth fighting to protect.
And nestled into Paul’s letter is a little statement that sets up the second important caveat: apparently it’s not all about me. The freedom and communion that I enjoy in and through a relationship with Jesus apparently doesn’t revolve around moi, or moi’s inability to get through a church service without a snack. He writes,“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians chapter 5, verse 13)
Let’s be frank, shall we? We all have appetites; some are satisfied with a little nibble here and there and others are voracious. The great truth about Christian Liberty is this: we are no longer slaves to those things, regardless of how our stomachs are grumbling at any given moment.
Regarding communion, we belong in a realm where intimacy with God is actually expected. I’ll go so far as to say that Jesus’ death was simply a means to this end, judging by the prayer that is recorded in John chapter 17. This communion is part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and His presence in our lives is like bread and wine to a weary traveller. Paul goes on in Galatians to explain that living by, and keeping in step with the Spirit is what sustains our freedom and guards us from become slaves again to our appetites. God has bound Himself to us with chains forged in the heat of sacrificial passion; this is what has secured our freedom.
The question I’m asking myself today is, what is it that I’m craving? Do I long to rest and play in a deep communion with God, or do I desire to rush around that, making the freedom to rest and play in and of itself the ultimate prize?