Sometimes a single line of Scripture is so good that it begs to be taken out of its immediate context, as long as one still stays true to the broader theological messages of the Gospels, the Torah, the prophets or the Epistles.
Such is the case with 2 Corinthians, 3:17 (which is included among this week’s readings in the Revised Common Lectionary):
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
Now this line from Paul comes in the context of the great evangelist’s continual exegesis of the relationship between the Law of the Old Testament, on one hand, and (on the other hand) the redemption offered through Christ to all who, by our very human nature, fall short of the Law yet maintain our faith in God’s grace. It is a complicated topic about which volumes have been written, and which of course provided a large part of the kindling for the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century (and beyond).
We need not attempt in this short space to unpack that entire subject.
Still, the line itself is both one of the most exhilarating and one of the most comforting in the entire Bible, and one of the most central to the entire message of Christ as interpreted by Paul. If Jesus indeed came to offer a new covenant specifically to free us from sin, and to free us to be vessels of God’s love, even if the vessels aren’t spotless, then we are much more likely to live in hope rather than fear, to walk toward a promise rather than away from perdition.
If the Spirit of the Lord frees us rather than binds us, enables us rather than constricts us, empowers us rather than burdens us, then we are much more likely to expand God’s kingdom of love than to merely safeguard it. In preaching this, it should be noted, Paul is not off on his own tangent; he is preaching entirely in consonance with Jesus’ parable of the talents, in which the master rewarded those who took his gifts and grew them.
This is not the “freedom from” tyrannical authority that is so justly and wisely part of our civic realm (and which itself is an endowment from our Creator); this is a “freedom for” a realm of faith and love, hope and charity, grace and redemption.
This freedom is the Spirit’s legacy to us and the means of the Spirit’s mission for us, so that we can bring others into the freeing discipline of God’s joy. We should celebrate this freedom, be ever grateful for it – and live up to it with the best our souls can offer, every single day.
Quin Hillyer is a veteran conservative columnist. He has an undergraduate degree in Theology from Georgetown University and has served for years in various forms of ecumenical lay leadership.