freedom

This week’s Self-care Sunday continues the theme of freedom.

A Clean Bill of Health

“Everything looks great!” the service manager told me, “you’re all set for another five-thousand miles.” For some reason, knowing that my car had no problems made me feel like I’d gotten a no-cavity report from the dentist. The freedom of having a trouble-free car made me happy.

I pulled out on the road and headed to the other end of town to pick up a few groceries before making the trek back home. Cars whizzed past me and I glanced at my speedometer. Yep, they were speeding and I wasn’t. Didn’t they realize that the city had those awful automatic ticket cameras?

I’d had a run in with one of those earlier in the year, and I made sure to keep my car at the posted speed limit. Traffic backed up around me as the road narrowed to two lanes, but I maintained my steady speed. I wondered at the angry drivers zooming past as the road widened again, the city would make a bundle on speeding tickets today.

For some reason, it took forever to reach the grocery store, but I made it past the perilous point with the speeding cameras. I couldn’t understand why the camera hadn’t taken a single shot of the other cars careening past. I felt a little disgruntled. Those speeders deserved to pay. After all, I’d had to pay over $200 for going a measly 4.5 miles over the speed limit.

By the time I finished shopping and headed back through town, rush hour had started. Once again, drivers hurled past me as if I were a boulder and they the rushing waters. I decided to use cruise control to keep from joining the speeding frenzy around me. After checking my speed, I clicked the button…and nothing happened.

A Bungled Service Visit

I find it difficult to love some people (ok, a lot of people sometimes). Find the freedom to love. #love #mercy #graceDespite my car’s clean bill of health, the cruise control didn’t work. They must have broken it at the dealership because it had worked just fine on my trip to town. I mentally went through what I would say and how I would make sure that they paid to replace it. Hopefully, they wouldn’t argue with me. At the next stoplight I grabbed my phone and dialed the dealership.

The service manager took my call, even though they closed in five minutes. “Yes, this is Anita, and I picked up my Prius about an hour ago.” I struggled to find polite words to explain my problem. “Is it possible that something happened during the service visit to mess with my cruise control? It doesn’t seem to work anymore.”

By this time, my inner Judgey McJudgerton had escaped her cage and the space inside my head had heated up. How in the world could they ruin my almost new car? They’d better agree to fix it right then, even if they had to pay someone overtime to do it. I certainly didn’t have time to drive two hours round trip for another visit to the shop. Why couldn’t people just do their jobs right the first time?

I almost didn’t hear the service manager’s voice when he asked, “What seems to be the problem?”

“Well, the cruise doesn’t work.” Cars around me leapt forward as the light turned green and speed off. All of them.

I alone moved like molasses down the street. A police cruiser speed by, oblivious to the hordes of lawbreakers. Something clicked. “And maybe the speedometer is broken, too.” I hated to admit it, but maybe my car was wrong. Surely a police officer wouldn’t let so many people get away with breaking the law!

A Quick Fix

Dazed at the revelation, I almost didn’t hear the service manager. “Ma’am,” his voice sounded a little impatient, “locate the little button above the clock on your dashboard.”

“Ok, I found it.”

“Now push the button.”

I did. Suddenly my speed dropped from 30 to 18—and I hadn’t let my foot off the gas.

“Now try using cruise control,” he urged me. “It only works if you’re going at least 25. The technicians must have forgotten to push the button again to switch it back from kilometers to miles per hour.”

I blushed, sped up, and quickly verified that the cruise control did indeed work. “Um, yes, thank you, it seems to work just fine now. Have a great evening!” I stabbed at the hang up button on the steering wheel to end the call.

If I would have read my manual from cover to cover, I would have known about the cruise control lower limit AND the mph/kph button. But I hadn’t. Instead, I’d blithely assumed that everyone else had a problem. In addition, I judged everyone else and found them lacking (and speeding) while patting myself on the back for my good behavior.

Sure enough, I struggle with closet legalism. I find it so easy to get a list of rules from my church or denomination and follow them to the letter. Meanwhile, I look down my nose at everyone who doesn’t do things my way (aka ‘the right way’).

Freedom to Love

After this experience, I started to understand Paul and his letter to the Galatians a bit better. Paul and I have a lot in common. Ok, I don’t go around literally killing people who don’t believe the way I do, but I commit character assassination in my head. Which is just as bad.

I don't go around killing people who don't think like I do, but I commit character assassination in my head. Which is just as bad. #judgement #Christianity Click To Tweet

More importantly, when I realize that I don’t have to keep rules to be ‘right with God,’ I gain the freedom to love better and more often. Jesus never gave me the job of policing other people’s behavior. He gave me the job of loving people.

When I love like he does, it doesn’t matter what other people look like, act like, smell like, or sound like. It also doesn’t matter what country they come from, the color of their skin, or the flavor of their religion. When I love like Jesus, I can love someone who goes through a sex change or keeps their sex and loves someone who shares it. I should love everybody equally—and all the time.

Freedom from Judgement

If you don’t believe me, read the gospels. Jesus hung out with and loved on some people who were radically different from him. Nowhere in the gospels (or anywhere else in the Bible) does he tell us our job is to judge. In fact, he says just the opposite in Matthew 7:1-2:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

If I take on the task of monitoring everyone’s behavior for biblical standards, I’ll just wear myself out and set myself outside of the mercy and grace of God.

If I take on the task of monitoring everyone's behavior for biblical standards, I set myself outside of the mercy and grace of God. #judgement #mercy #grace Click To Tweet

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t find this easy. In fact, loving everybody always is one of the most difficult things in the world for me. Especially when it comes to people’s core beliefs.

Humans like to think that they’re right. We long for a standard by which to judge everyone—and all too often we pick ourselves. But remember, Jesus didn’t give us the job of judging and changing other people.

We long for a standard by which to judge everyone--and all too often we pick ourselves. We don't make good measuring tapes. #grace #mercy Click To Tweet

If I love like Jesus, I have the freedom to accept everyone—even if they worship Allah or Buddha. When I love like Jesus, I have the freedom to get along with everyone—even if they think differently about abortion or gun control or immigration.

Sometimes we think we know how things should be, because we’ve glanced at the manual. But unless we’ve studied it in depth, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we could be wrong.

I challenge you to read Galatians 2 from The Message translation of the Bible.

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