“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.'” (Rom. 8:15).
It’s a lot easier to write when I don’t envision my friends’ smirking faces as they read what I’ve written. In particular, I can see Heidi’s grin as she scans over these words. I see her face because it’s her voice I hear in my head right now. I’ve been playing back a conversation we had on Friday as we ate ice cream and sucked down several cups of coffee. “What are you so afraid of?” she asked me.
I had no answer then. I don’t have one now. What I do have is a heavy weight sitting right on my chest, squashing me, squeezing all the air out. Fear is that weight, but I don’t know what it is fear of exactly. Failure. Rejection. Pointlessness. All of the above. None of the above.
Fear is not a new companion. I have lived most of my life afraid of something. I remember the physical frozenness when I was in hospital chaplaincy training and how hard it was to make myself walk through that door. I have been so afraid of driving in weather. Fear has affected my friendships, my relationship with my husband, my job performance.
So when I started researching for today’s word, I started by doing a keyword search on bound. Nothing jumped. I switched to bind. Nope. I googled “spiritual bondage.” Getting closer. Then I pulled out my Theological Dictionary and was directed to the above scripture reference. It wasn’t until I read it a few times that one word jumped up and bit me on the nose. Again.
Chapter 7 of Romans is one of the Bible’s great wrestling matches. My other favorite is Jacob and the Angel. Anyway, in Romans 7, Paul is describing the internal wrestling match he has between doing the good he wants to do and the not-good that he ends up doing. Near the end of the match, Paul asks the question, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” The answer is Romans 8:1: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. Paul wants us to know that God has not set us free to be put into slavery, or bondage AGAIN.
In Christ Jesus we are not just set free, but we are adopted into the closest of relationships. To call God Abba is to refer to him in a dependent and loving way as would a child and with the respect that an adult has for his or her parent. It is a relationship that is completely secure and that’s what releases us from the bondage of fear.
As we wade even deeper into Advent, let us marvel at the freedom that Jesus came to offer. Let’s take time to identify and surrender our fears to him. I mean seriously, aren’t you getting tired of the wrestling match?
1. Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
2. Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.
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