Luther’s doctrine on the freedom of the Christian—who lives as a completely free person, subject to nothing and no one, and simultaneously, as a dutiful servant, subject to everyone—sums up the Christian life in the most evangelical way, for the Christian life is lived in the shape of the cross. The vertical beam is symbolic of our life in relationship to God. Because of the cross, where Jesus’ outstretched arms were nailed to the wood, our life before God is marked by complete freedom. It was there that the greatest of all exchanges took place. (Luther called it the “joyful exchange.”)
Jesus exchanged his righteousness for our sin. God no longer looks upon our sin. Nor will he judge us for our unrighteousness. He sees only the righteousness of his Son in us. We are now his children—sons and daughters of the Creator and King of the whole entire cosmos. And this is a fait accompli—an accomplished fact! And tetelestai—it is finished!
The horizontal beam is symbolic of our life with others. As free sons and daughters of the King, we are also freed up to work on our neighbor’s behalf in and through our various vocations—whatever they may be. God has placed you and me in all sorts of stations to care for and to walk alongside one another. This can be easy. It can also be very hard. And we ought to work hard, for our neighbor’s sake, for this is how we love our neighbor. And it is an honorable thing to serve and love our neighbor. Yet we will fail. Often. Even so, we can still stand firm in the promises of God and remain confident that we are still free children of the King. Despite our failures—past, present, and future—our destiny is secure, our reward is guaranteed, and our life is eternal, for God’s one and only Son secured all of it for you and me.