THE CHRISTIAN MERDEKA
This Sunday, we celebrate Singapore’s 55 years of Merdeka – a Malay word which means “independent” or “freedom”. As Christians, we too celebrate our own Merdeka. The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 5:1 – “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” and in Galatians 5:13 – “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
Martin Luther, in his tract The Christian Freedom, wrote: “A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.” [Timothy F. Lull and William R. Russell, Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, 404.]
Luther argued that true Christian freedom was found in the transformation of the inner man. A human being is made up of both the inner and outer person. The inner man – the righteous, free, and true Christian, that is, the spiritual, new and inner person – is brought about by the Word of God. When the inner man is renewed, the outer man, by yielding wholly to God, does works of service out of a spirit of spontaneous love, seeking nothing other than to serve God and yield to Him in all earthly labours.
For Luther, the application of Christian freedom was to serve our neighbours genuinely and freely, without any hope of reward: “I will therefore give myself as a Christ to my neighbour, just as Christ offered himself to me. I will do nothing in this life except what is profitable, necessary, and life-giving for my neighbour, since through faith I have an abundance of all good things in Christ” [Lull, 419]. In short, Luther’s concept of true Christian freedom hinges on two important facts: first, the Christian lives not in himself but in Christ; and second, in serving his neighbour. On this Merdeka Day, I pray that we will enjoy the freedom given us through Christ, by submitting ourselves to the will of God and in serving our neighbours.
Rev. Dr Timothy Chong