Opinion

Living a life of freedom— love, patience, peace

Daren Blanck

In his letter to the Galatians, which we are studying this month at Zoar, the Apostle Paul makes the case that in Christ we are freed from both sin and the oppression of rule keeping. The work of salvation was completed in Christ’s death on the cross. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to slip into putting ourselves first instead of God and our neighbors. “By contrast,” Paul says, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control...” (Galatians 5:22-23)

This is what living a life of freedom is all about. It’s actively cultivating the fruit of the spirit. Jesus said, “My Father’s glory is shown by your bearing much fruit; and in this way you become my disciples.” (John 15:8)

Paul often describes the Christian life as a life lived out in love. By this he doesn’t mean an erotic attraction or a vaguely warm feeling. The Greek word is an action word—agape, a determination to act lovingly and show kindness even when it is not deserved. It’s the love that changes the world.

Everything else on Paul’s list tells us what living a life of agape looks like. Take “patience” and “peace” for example.

Patience here means “long tempered.” As Christians grow up we’re supposed to become more patient. I’m pretty conflicted by this because often it seems like I have the idea that as I get older I deserve to be “short fused.”

We live in an “instant gratification” culture. Sometimes I eat at the Two Harbors McDonald’s on the way to Duluth. I’ve become really aware of how impatient I get when my food isn’t ready nearly as soon as I’ve paid for it. I can order anything on Amazon and ship it next day air. Then I get impatient if it doesn’t arrive in 23 hours!

Then there is my own tardiness. I have the idea that since it’s 29 miles from my driveway in Tofte to the parking lot at William Kelley School in Silver Bay, it ought to take me 29 minutes. So I try to do just one more thing before I drive out of the driveway, and then I get impatient with the driver in front of me on Highway 61. I end up taking out the stress I’ve created for myself on someone else by not leaving enough margin in my own life.

Impatience is really self-centeredness. I need to remember that the world doesn’t revolve around me. Sometimes other people make mistakes—just like I do. Nobody is perfect. I’ve got my issues too. That’s what grace is all about.

One writer in the Old Testament (perhaps King Solomon) said, “… patience is better than pride. Do not be quickly provoked...for anger resides in the lap of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:8-9)

I’ve resolved to practice patience this fall, to pray to put my own impatience into perspective and to pray for the person in front of me, to schedule more margin into my life, and take a deep breath while I enjoy the scenery. After all, WCCO lists Highway 61 as the most scenic drive in the state—and I get to drive it every day!

People who practice patience find that they begin to experience something often missing in our busy world—Peace. Sunday was the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks and tragedy of 9/11. We were reminded again that we live in a world that is not characterized by peace. But then we live in a world that is in rebellion against God.

Understanding underlying political and economic struggles in the Middle East and the tenets of radical Islam that lead to terrorism are important, but terrorism, despite all of the news about it, still takes far fewer lives than traffic accidents, domestic violence and suicide.

When Jesus spoke of peace, he was talking about something different than the lack of acts of terror. He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

A lot of us live in a hyperactively elevated state of fear and anxiety. Maybe it’s because of the 24 hour news cycle in which distant events seem like they’re happening next door. Or maybe it’s the entertainment generated monsters that become real in our imaginations. Perhaps it’s the advent of social media: cyberbullying and trolling magnify the normal stuff of life—fear of rejection and fear of failure.

But living the Spirit filled life that we were all meant to live means finding peace in God’s presence. Psalm 46:10 says “be still and know that I am God.” One key is carving out time for “Sabbath”—a time to rest, be renewed, and recharged. Another is recognizing that God never says when you surrender your life to Him everything is going to be rosy. He says when you do He will be there walking alongside of you, sustaining you despite the turmoil of the world.

It might seem a little unrealistic to find peace in the face of the chaos of modern life, terrorism, and turmoil, but I am reminded that the apostle Paul was chained in prison facing a death sentence when he wrote these words, “... the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7-9)

Living a life of freedom in the Spirit is all about the little things that are really big things taken together. Practicing patience when the world is in constant hurry, finding peace in the God who loves you and offers himself for you, and discovering that love is an action word after all.

This week our contributor is Daren Blanck, pastor of Zoar Church in Tofte, a former Wilderness Canoe Base guide/ counselor, and a student of Beyond the River Academy, a ministry program of Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ.


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