-- Galatians 5:13
Freedom. From the earliest age we’ve been taught to desire it, to cherish it, but do we really understand what it means, especially from God’s perspective?
One way to grasp it is to think of its opposites: bondage, slavery, obligation. And now we start to see the problem. From our worldly perspective, freedom is the absence of obligations, the absence of bosses, masters or anyone else telling us what to do. But this is not God’s viewpoint.
The other day I sat pondering ‘praying about everything.’ I realized I had not really prayed over our upcoming vacation. I was thinking here about flight delays, weather, etc. But then a different thought popped in my head: I had not asked for ‘permission’ from God to go on vacation. I instantly rejected this thought. I’m a grown woman…I don’t have to ask anyone for permission about anything anymore! The thought persisted. ‘You are a bondservant, aren’t you? You’ve willingly taken a Master.’
Well, huh, got me there.
In Biblical times, most slaves had to be freed every seven years. But if a slave loved their master and decided to stay, they could become a ‘bondservant’ which would make them a slave forever. When we make the decision to take Jesus as the Master of our lives, we make a similar choice. We pledge what Jesus pledged in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Abba, Father…I want your will to be done, not mine.” Mark 14:36 That doesn’t sound like very much freedom.
In fact, the Bible says that in this life we will always be slaves to something. Paul explains in Romans 6:16-18:
Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
There is a lot of talk these days about ‘agency’ and ‘setting intentions.’ But how much ‘freedom’ do we truly have? Our COVID experience showed us that our freedom to practice our religion could be restricted, our freedom to gather constrained and our freedom to not wear a mask overridden. Freedom to travel and work took a hit. Even our freedom to refuse medical interventions such as vaccinations was challenged. And although we cling to our freedom of speech, ‘cancel culture’ and ‘fact checking’ made it clear that some speech was freer than others.
Besides that, our freedom is restricted by laws, statutes, ethics, contracts and commitments, and vows we have made to ourselves and others. If you have children and a job and a mortgage, can you really just hop on a plane to Hawaii today with a one-way ticket? Well, theoretically, of course you can. We are always free to be disobedient, to break the law, and to break our promises. And we are free to reap the consequences of those actions, including a major restriction of our freedom: incarceration.
Freedom is an illusion. There will always be those with more power or money who will make the rules which curtail our ‘agency.’ There will always be obligations we must fulfill. There will always be a moral code that we feel compelled to obey. We can ‘set an intension’ to be happy, but our happiness will always be in competition with others’ happiness, and thus require compromise.
My hubby has often said that the best form of government would be a ‘benevolent king,’ who would truly seek the welfare of his people. He would give them laws that protected his subjects while still allowing them much control over their lives. That does sound pretty good…. But then, as Christians, isn’t that exactly what we have? In this life we will always be a slave to something, but Jesus tells us,
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Through Christ we are free from the punishment for sin, free from death. We are set free by the Truth to see injustice, oppression, corruption and abuse the way God sees it. And we are free by the Holy Spirit within us to work against those evils. We are free to willingly accept the yoke of a bondservant pledged to serve Jesus for life by serving others. His way leads to life, abundance and righteousness. Our labor will build the Kingdom of God where one day we will dwell in a mansion as an adopted son or daughter!
So, as we observe Independence Day, celebrate your independence from sin, selfishness and worldly pleasures that last only for this lifetime and are a snare for your soul. Celebrate your dependence on God, His Mercy, His Grace, His Forgiveness and His Salvation. Humble yourselves, and ‘continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling!’ Philippians 2:12.
DEAR LORD, help us to submit our strong wills and desire for freedom to You. Teach us Your ways and help us be fruitful and pleasing to You. Grant us courage to pursue justice and righteousness for Your namesake. God bless us and bless America and our world. AMEN.
Blessings of Liberty,