The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear. Romans 8:15
“Don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel was the law we lived by,” says Frederick Buechner in his powerful memoir Telling Secrets, “and woe to the one who broke it.” Buechner is describing his experience of what he calls the “unwritten law of families who for one reason or another have gone out of whack.” In his own family, that “law” meant Buechner was not allowed to talk about or grieve his father’s suicide, leaving him with no one he could trust with his pain.
Can you relate? Many of us in one way or another have learned to live with a warped version of love, one that demands dishonesty or silence about what’s harmed us. That kind of “love” relies on fear for control—and is a kind of slavery.
We can’t afford to forget just how different Jesus’ invitation to love is from the kind of conditional love we often experience—a kind of love we’re always afraid we could lose. As Paul explains, through Christ’s love we can finally understand what it means to not live in fear (Romans 8:15) and start to understand the kind of glorious freedom (v. 21) that’s possible when we know we’re deeply, truly, and unconditionally loved. We’re free to talk, to trust, and to feel once more—to learn what it means to live unafraid.
Are there any unspoken “rules” you’ve learned as conditions for acceptance and love? How might you live differently if you believed you didn’t have to follow those rules to be loved?
Loving God, at times I’m afraid to live honestly with myself and with others—thinking that by doing so I’ll no longer be loved. Heal my heart, and help me believe in and live for the glory, freedom, and joy Your love makes possible.
Romans 7 deals with the conflict we face with sin and concludes by Paul saying, “I myself . . . am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin” (v. 25). In contrast, Romans 8 begins with this magnificent assurance: “Therefore, there is no now condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (v. 1). Believers in Jesus are now free to live out the joyous victory found by following Him. Verse 5 provides the key: “Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” The work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is absolutely crucial. And so verse 14 appropriately says, “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” It’s this Spirit that “testifies with our spirit that we’re God’s children” (v. 16).