Taking Back Christianese #4: “We Have Freedom in Christ”

This phrase is often misunderstood to mean that Christians have no obligation to follow any rules or laws whatsoever.

In other words, this phrase is often used to justify the “no right, no wrong” mentality from the song in Frozen.  In this scenario, the problem isn’t sin the problem is the law.  The problem isn’t our rebellion, the problem is the rules themselves.  If we can just get rid of those pesky rules then we will be truly “free.” Of course, the Bible’s vision of freedom is radically different. 

 

The wildly popular song “Let it Go,” from the movie Frozen, has the following lyrics:

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free!

No doubt this captures the sentiment of much of our culture. People are looking to break through any last vestige of rules in our modern world.  And they define the lack of rules–no right or wrong–as freedom.

Christians sometimes use a phrase that captures (or at least can capture) a similar sentiment, “We have freedom in Christ.”  And Christians use this phrase in drastically different ways.  Indeed, it is hard to imagine of phrase that has so much potential for being both biblical and unbiblical depending on how it is used.

And thus we come to the next phrase in the series, “Taking Back Christianese.”  Our purpose in this post is simply to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of this phrase.  We will do this by asking three questions:  (1) Why do people use this phrase?  (2) What is correct or helpful about this phrase?  and (3) What is problematic about this phrase?

Why Do People Use This Phrase?

There is little doubt that people use this phrase because it echoes the very word of Paul, “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Gal 5:1).

Given that Paul’s letter to the Galatians is largely designed to battle a form of legalism, most Christians latch onto this phrase to battle what they perceive to be legalism. They are tired perhaps of what they see as a judgmental spirit in others that imposes unbiblical rules and restrictions upon them.  They want to be free.

The problem, of course, is that often times people misunderstood what actually counts as legalism.  Thus, as we shall see below, the phrase can be unfortunately used to fight against what is right and good.

What is Correct or Helpful about This Phrase?

In as  much as one understands Paul’s original intent with this phrase, there is much about it that is wonderful and liberating.  At its core, this phrase is rightly used to keep Christians from laboring under an unbiblical form of law-keeping. Such unbiblical law-keeping would include:

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