Galatians 5:1. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Who among us doesn’t love freedom. Here in America we especially love our freedom. We have holidays to celebrate it – July 4 and now Juneteenth. We sing songs about it. Every commercial on TV tells us to exercise our freedom and buy another product that we don’t need, but because we are free we can (and should) have it anyway.
But when we think about our freedom as Americans it can be a bit tricky. When freedom is something that we fought for, and earned, and achieved for ourselves, or when it becomes something that we must hold on too, or fight to maintain, then that same freedom can quickly become the very thing that is enslaving us.
Have you ever heard someone say or had the thought yourself that our freedoms are being taken away? “The government is trying to steal our freedoms.” Or, “We can’t let them take away our rights.” But what is happening when we think this way? Hasn’t freedom now become the idol, the god, that we worship? The thing that I must value above all else and never let anyone take from me?
Or let’s think about the culture of freedom that we have created. A culture that values personal freedom above all else as the highest good. You can and should always do what you want to do. Be true to yourself. Do what makes you happy. But is this freedom? Or is it bondage to the self? If we tell a child to “follow their dreams” have we liberated them? Or have we enslaved them to those very dreams? What if they fail to achieve their dreams? What if their dreams change? Are they still valuable? If we are telling people that they are free to self-determine and self-identify haven’t we actually just enslaved them to that identity? If I choose the identity of “great teacher and writer” then what happens when my writing sucks? My chosen identity has just enslaved me and crushed me, hasn’t it?
When we tell each other and believe that we are the source of our own freedom, that freedom will always become bondage.
But union with Christ offers us a better way – For freedom Christ has set us free.
God loves freedom. He’s all about your liberty. Freedom is God’s goal for all of us. As Galatians says, we are free to be free.
But God’s freedom is very different from “American freedom” or our culture’s freedom. The freedom that we are offered in Christ is not earned, achieved, fought for, or even maintained by us at all. It is the gracious gift of our Savior. The merciful result of our union with him. And a freedom that is not earned or deserved, not won or seized by our own efforts, a freedom that is given to us will actually free our hearts to love. Paul explains this in Galatians 5:13.
Galatians 5:13. For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
And so here is the great paradox of our freedom in Christ. When we are truly free we can truly serve. When we are set free from having to create or hold on to our own personal freedom, only then can we freely give up our freedom and then submit our lives to loving others. Just as Jesus did.
But how did Jesus find this level of freedom? A freedom that allowed him to become a servant? Jesus was set free by the love of God. He knew that he was fully loved and accepted by the Father and empowered by the Spirit. This was a love and freedom that he did not “earn” or fight for. It was freely given to him from the beginning of time. And as a result he was free to lay down his own freedom and fight for the freedom of all mankind. He used his freedom from grace to bring freedom to all mankind, to bring reconciliation to the world, and to bring destruction to the forces of evil and injustice that seek to steal freedom from us all.
“To live is Christ” offers us this same true freedom. Not a freedom that we have fought for and won by our own power. Not a freedom that we must hold on to and never give up. But a freedom given to us by grace alone. A freedom that allows us to, like Christ, give up our freedom for the cause of love. A freedom that allows us to fight for reconciliation, peace, and justice. A freedom from Christ’s love that allows us to serve one another through love.
Do you see your freedom as something that you have to hold on to? Or is it a gift from God?
You in Christ
How does knowing that we have freely been given life and love allow us to give up our freedom for others?
Christ in you
How can you celebrate your freedom in Christ today?
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