“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1
Freedom is a big deal in America. In our Declaration of Independence, the forefathers declare that freedom—liberty—is one of our unalienable (universal, moral, natural) Rights, along with life and the pursuit of happiness. If you look up “liberty” in the dictionary, every one of the definitions begins with “freedom,” freedom from rule, freedom from control, freedom from captivity. We care a lot about freedom.
It seems, too, that God cares a lot about freedom. I like that. Way to go, God, I’m all about freedom... that is until I look around at the world and wonder whether things have gotten a little out of hand. I’d like God to just take control over me, my circumstances, the suffering in the world, and just fix it all. Force love and obedience. Clean up the mess. Isn’t that what we ask of Him when our circumstances turn ugly, or when natural disasters strike, or when bad things happen to good people? Fix this! Look at this mess you’ve allowed to happen! What kind of a God are you??
But freedom is a double-edged sword. We choose to be good, and we choose to be selfish. We choose to feed the poor, and we choose to ignore the poor. We choose to embrace people, and we choose to put people in concentration camps. In order to fully embrace freedom and to understand to a somewhat greater degree the way God works is to recognize that if God compromises one part of freedom, the whole thing would fall to pieces. Being only a little bit of a slave is still being a slave. So God grants us freedom, recognizing that He’s taking one serious risk, that we will not choose Him, and that we will choose to remain a slave to our selfish nature.
Being a slave to our selfish nature sounds so baaaad, and I feel like I can kind of write myself out of that formula, like checking off that I’m not really into bestiality so I must be okay. But I think one of the freedoms we gain from Christ is clarity—outside of Christ, the choice between good and evil is often hazy. As a nonbeliever, I often felt directionless, confused, disoriented, unsure, and worried… about pretty much everything. Without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it is sometimes difficult to discern what is real and true and good and beautiful. This, for me, is one of the yokes of slavery – the yoke of floundering around trying to find my own way outside of Jesus.
In Galatians, Paul is addressing a group of people who have said that Jesus is not enough for salvation, for freedom. They set up a Jesus+ system. But it is for freedom that Christ has set us free, not so that we should continue carrying around a burden of guilt, misdirection, wandering, etc. All of nature and humanity is bound by laws, but within those boundaries we are granted freedom. If we choose poorly, we pick up the yoke of slavery and are bound by the consequences of those choices. If we follow Christ, we walk lightly in his freedom.
So, believer, what are you beating yourself up over today? What are you carrying around as your Jesus+? Maybe a little of what Paul personifies in Romans? “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:14-15, 24-25)
Hey soul sister, it is for FREEDOM that Christ has set you free! Lay it down before Him, whatever “it” is. Sure, ask him to cleanse your spirit, to strengthen and guide you, to lift that burden of sin you still carry. You will surely stumble along some more as he who began a good work in you carries it on to completion. But rely on him, rejoice in his freedom, and praise him for the good gifts he has given you through the holy spirit – like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. All of these are given you through the Holy Spirit.
Praise God for freedom in Christ!