When children first discover their ability to make their own choices,
parents feel a sense of pride. But this ability can also create a sense of
frustration as children try to choose just one toy to take in the car, or
a sense of impatience as they anguish in front of the closet, trying to
choose their clothes for the day.
Developmental psychologist Erik Erickson proposed eight life
stages that we all experience. In the second stage, autonomy versus
shame and doubt, children from roughly 18 months to 2-3 years
assert themselves when making choices and going through toilet
training. Both generations begin the struggle between the safety of
dependence and the freedoms of self-sufficiency.
Children of God have our own independence issues. In today’s
passage, Paul addresses a matter much more important than
choosing peas or green beans for dinner. Almost a decade earlier in
a letter to the Galatians (3:28), Paul introduced the vision of unity in
Christ, saying that Christ-followers are “neither slave nor free, male
nor female,” an unbelievably radical concept for their culture.
Here, he tells his Roman readers that the death of Jesus gives us
freedom from the Law itself. Children learn that the freedom to color
outside the lines does not mean the freedom to draw on the walls.
And Paul admonishes Christians that freedom from the Jewish law is
not permission for lawlessness.
Believers, then and now, often desire to live for God as they travel through life, but want to stay in the driver’s seat. Children gradually discover that the ability to make choices does not change their need for obedience. Paul reminds us that the freedom we receive through Christ presents opportunities to become obedient from the heart (v. 17).
When we are flooded with decisions, how do we better prioritize our faith?
God, thank you for giving us the freedom of choice. Strengthen our resolve to make decisions that will demonstrate our obedience to you. Amen.