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Willimon: Law and Freedom

Our common misunderstanding of the commandments as a set of burdens overlooks something essential, says Long, namely that they are prefaced not by an order – “Here are ten rules.  You had better obey them or else!” – but instead by a breathtaking announcement of freedom: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Ex 20:2).  These are guidelines for freedom – a way of living out our God-given freedom from slavery.  We tend to see laws and commands as a limitation of our innate human freedom, but the Bible tends to think of these laws as the pathway to true God-given freedom.

Some years ago a friend of mine was sharing with me how he came close to engaging in an extramarital affair.  Fortunately, just at the last minute, he resisted the temptation and remained faithful to his marriage vows.  I asked him what led to his fidelity to his vows.

“I guess I figured out that fidelity makes you happy.  In staying faithful to my marriage vows, I’m staying faithful to who I am and who I want to be.” That strikes me as close to what I’m trying to say about the Ten Commandments.  These are not heavy, burdensome, back-breaking, spirit-stifling demands; these are God’s gracious gifts to us that show us the way.

- William Willimon, Pulpit Resource, 3/11/12