Living in God-given freedom will inevitably bring the scorn of the self-righteous down on you. Jesus stayed in trouble because the way He acted didn't fit the expectations of the religious crowd who thought it was their duty to police everybody else to make sure they were minding their P's & Q's. When He enjoyed a good meal and a glass of wine with friends, they called Jesus "a glutton and a drunkard." (See Luke 7:34)
When He showed loving concern for those who wouldn't exactly seem to fit in behind the stained glass, they called Him a "friend of sinners" - the old guilt by association ploy. I've even heard people twenty centuries later suggest that there may have been hanky-panky going on between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. How stupid. When He acted in the confidence of God, they accused Him of being arrogant. (See John 6:42)
Jesus described the self-righteous religious crowd by saying they were like little children who pitched a fit, shrieking out, "We played a song on our flute and you didn't dance! We sang a sad song and you didn't cry!" (See Luke 7:32)
Nothing has changed. The self-righteous today still demand that those who profess to be Christians march lockstep together like a bunch of Nazi soldiers. But that's not what you've been called to do. Those of us who follow Jesus Christ march to the beat of a Different Drummer.
They may accuse us of getting "out of line" and they're often right. We don't see ourselves as being rescued from a world of unrighteousness only to fall into a world of self-righteousness. Our grace walk isn't a lockstep march of religious robots. Ours is a dance of grace.
They can mock us if they want, but we're in a Heavenly Conga Line led by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Sound irreverent? Only to religious ears. Those set free by grace never have and never will meet the demands of the flat-liners who secretly begrudge their monotonous, mundane march they call "the Christian life." They brood and seethe over the idea that somewhere, somebody who calls himself a Christian is having a good time. They equate freedom with sinning and to hear talk of freedom from grace walkers strikes in them images of Girls Gone Wild in the name of Christian liberty. It's sad that they just don't get it.
A friend recently told me that he met a man on an airplane who asked him if he knew me. When my friend told him he did, the man answered, "That brother is free!" I'm not sure if he meant it as an insult or a compliment, but either way he's right. I've done my time at, what my friend Paul Walsh calls, "St. Shawshanks" and thank God was finally released after serving a 29 year sentence.
Yesterday, as I visited the King Center in Atlanta with friends from California, I saw those familiar words from Martin Luther King etched on his grave: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!" That's it - and thank God, we don't have to wait until we're in heaven to be able to proclaim those words.