A central value of the Reformation is the notion of freedom. The message of grace freed from the idea that we need to perform good works in order to be accepted by God. When it comes to faith, we have no obligations, for grace means that we don´t have to perform well to acquire salvation. We are free from guilt, free from religious pressure, free from fear of God and death.
Yet, this freedom means that we are happily willing to serve. Grace sets us free to use our energy for the well-being of others. Being free does not mean that people are free to do whatever they want, but that they are set free to serve God and others. Christian freedom means being delivered from the pressure to perform to be accepted, as well as from the addiction to self-centeredness.
Famous, puzzling and challenging is Luther´s formulation of freedom:
A Christian is free, lord over all things and subject to no one; A Christian is a willing servant of all things and subject to everyone.
From this idea of freedom springs forth in men and women a fruitful and restless creativity and a longing for progress. Being lord over our all things makes life into an exciting enterprise. We can make choices and plans, and we can make free use of the gifts we have. Being at the same time a servant, leads us to use these possibilities to make the life of others more exciting too. That is why freedom is not just a personal thing but is directly related to political and economic freedom. The Reformation stimulated the right to freedom of speech, the desire for political rights for ordinary people including a limited government and laid the foundation for the freedom of trade and commerce. And the above-mentioned odd phrasing of freedom sees to it that this political and economic freedom continuously seeks to serve.
The connection with the issues the world is facing today is evident. On the one side there is a lack of personal, religious and political freedom in many parts of the world and even a growing danger that this freedom is threatened in the Western world.
On the other side gained and acclaimed freedom can easily turn into a new kind of slavery caused by the aggression of commercials, forcing people into a lifestyle they cannot afford, by political over-regulation that binds local and individual initiatives, by the idea that work can only be defined as paid work, devaluating work in the family, work in the church and the work in society of many volunteers, and the slavery threatening especially young people that the goal of life consists in the trinity of money, success and good looks.