Freedom is being united to others by the Holy Spirit.
The connectedness of the human body and mind is incredible which is why Paul compares the church to the human body, an organism in which each member is connected to every other member, despite differences. Paul explains that this is because of the one Spirit who works salvation in any who believe that Jesus Christ died for their sins.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:12–13)
What does this mean for us? Paul continues to explain that since the body is unified, no one can say to another member “we don’t need you” or “you don’t belong here” (1 Cor. 12:21–23). No one can say to a brother or sister whose name was also on the lips of Jesus as he hung on the cross, your concerns are not our concerns, we have no responsibility towards you.
On the contrary, we as a body should be keenly aware of the other members and aware of them as only a united body can be. Paul admonished the Corinthian church, which was riddled with division, cliques, selfishness, and unkindness, to remember their connectedness as a body.
But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Cor. 12:24–26)
A Christian's responsibility is no longer out of duty but out of love. The freedom to love in a way that the rest of the world cannot imagine. The freedom to be gracious and to live out their citizenship of a different reality brought about by the blood of Christ. This reality is the new creational reality.
As Augustine writes, "but simple unity will abide forever in the saints, as the Acts of the Apostles tell us: 'the multitude of believers had but one heart and one soul.' Single-minded and sincere, withdrawn from the swarming crowd of things which spring up only to die away, we must be lovers of eternity and unity if we would hold fast to the one God and to our blessed Lord." (On the Psalms, V. 1, 49)
Freedom is demonstrated in our unity by the Spirit.
Paul urges the church to care for each other as if others’ suffering is their suffering and others’ rejoicing is their own rejoicing. The gospel is more than just me and my personal interest.
This is good for the church to continue to take to heart. Many fellow believers are suffering for various reasons. If you broke your arm, you would not ignore it or deny it; you would have a hard time continuing to function in daily life if you did! So also, if a member of the body of Christ is suffering, imprisoned, mistreated, hungry, or thirsty, the whole body feels it. The church is not just your congregation but the whole global community of Christ followers. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us of this unity:
Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. (Heb. 13:3)
This is the way of love in the body of Christ, to “love your neighbor as yourself” such that you bear the burdens of others along with them as if they are your own.
Freedom is learning to carry the Cross with others.
Christ on the cross bore the ultimate burden—our sin. In his own body and spirit, he wept with those who wept. He bore the marks upon his own body of the cruelty, mistreatment, and abuse of sinful humans. He did not just remember those in prison but was imprisoned for their sake and for the sake of those who imprisoned them, so that abused and abuser alike could be saved.
As Jesus instructs his disciples, “bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:28). We can only do this because of Christ’s work on the cross. The good news, the greatest liberating news, is that Christ was imprisoned, mistreated, abandoned, for the sake of his body, the church.
The absurdity of the cross is the greatest act of love in the history of the world and compels us to respond. Bonded and united by the blood of the Lamb so that each has its proper function and place in the beautiful tapestry of God’s image of which Christ is the head, believers are a new creation. They have been freed from slavery to sin and death and now work in the world carrying their crosses and bearing witness to the truth and life that is theirs forever.
This freedom of the body of Christ is a supernatural, new kingdom freedom worked in the world by the Holy Spirit. When the church is united, it is bearing witness to the eternal reality breaking into this age symbolized in baptism. In dying for the sins of the world, his ultimate act of love and service freed us to sacrificially love others as if their burdens were our own.