Two of my roommates decided to create a decorative bulletin board for our dining room on Saturday. I arrived home from an evening event to see a large rectangular piece of cork board mounted on the wall, adorned with colorful striped ribbons and cute flower appliques. The surface is peppered with little floral sticky notes inscribed with various memorable quotes that we’ve spoken (or heard) during our three weeks as roommates… with plenty of blank papers for the funny quotes still to come.
It’s cute. They are cute. But this project is not just another cute bulletin board. It’s a symbol of their joy that overflows for their other two roommates and the bond we share in this tiny apartment.
I say that because the two of them were resident assistants (RAs) last year. They were required to create several decorative bulletin boards per month for their respective residence halls, often incorporating (sometime forcibly) themes of social justice, global solidarity, faith, unity, etc. While this is in theory a fun, creative project, it becomes a burden to many of the CFs, who spend hours making nice-looking bulletin boards that residents will actually appreciate. All of this on top of studying for their midterm or finalizing a ten-page essay due the next day. It’s such a long, comprehensive, and exhausting process that it often became more of a chore than a joy for these two.
But this time, they’re not resident assistants. They’re just ordinary roommates with ordinary responsibilities, and with plenty of free time to do their homework rather than cite drunken freshmen and sophomores careening through the halls. They’re free of all that burden. So what do they do? Make a bulletin board.
Why would they bother? Isn’t it nice that they’re free from this ugly chore? What’s different this time is that they can choose. They delight in decorating our tiny rooms, and take joy in seeing their other two roommates (myself included) light up as we notice their artsy displays. They want to do something that they used to force themselves to do.
To me, this sounds like the essence of the gospel. Jesus Christ came, lived a sinless and perfect life, took upon himself the sins of all of humanity, whether repentant or not, and died a horrific death at the cross — the death we all deserved to die, because God is a just and righteous God. Then, he rose again, conquering the chains of physical and spiritual death, and raising into a new, physical and spiritual, life! He did this so that we would be set free from the fear of death, from the just consequences of our sin, because he loves us. He adored us before we ever knew him, before we ever thought of him, before we ever thought the idea of a God was a good one.
In our new lives, we are given freedom in Christ. As Romans says, the chains of sin and death are no longer upon us. The chains of the law are no longer upon us. Our mistakes, our sins, were all atoned for at the cross — past, present, and most importantly, future. God knew in saving us that we were broken and sinful people who would struggle with sin for our whole lives. But regardless, he loved us, and equipped us with his Holy Spirit so that we can fight the fight against sin with boldness and confidence in a God who will hold us up and who will win in the end.
We are free to make mistakes; because of Christ’s atonement, we are forgiven. But this doesn’t mean that we run around and do whatever bad things we want to do because we are free. It means that we live lives of service to our Savior, out of love and gratitude for the things he has done for us. We desire to obey his commands not because we are chained by them, but because we love him. We want to bring him joy and bring him glory. He isn’t surprised by us; he doesn’t have high expectations that we have to meet or else. He takes delight in us. And in the same way, we take delight in him and desire to serve him.
So my roommates made a bulletin board because they were freed. They desired to make their roommates happy and decorate the wall with something bright, colorful, and fun. They loved every minute of it, spent hours picking out ribbons and cork board and post-it notes. All because of the joy that overflowed out of them because of their freedom. All because of Jesus Christ.