The word which captures all we want to do, but often aren’t free to do it.
“I wish I had the freedom to go on holidays whenever I wanted!”
“I wish I could eat anything I wanted without getting fat!”
“I wish I was free this weekend to go to the beach!”
Freedom is a utopia that we crave for. A desire for a future change, or a place that we would rather be.
Freedom not only captures what we really want to do, the utopia we crave, but we use it to defend what we believe:
“I’m free to think whatever I like, you’re not allowed to criticise me!”
“I’m free to believe that bagels are better than donuts. It’s not like I’m telling you that you’re not free to like donuts more!”
“Don’t tell me what to do. I’m free to do anything I want!”
Freedom can become the defence of what we believe; what is at our very cores and desires. Because we believe that people all have the right to freedom, it becomes the unassailable defence for all our actions and our beliefs.
If you don’t believe me, tell someone that they’re not free to believe what they believe, and watch the catastrophic consequences! (Please don’t, just imagine it! Maybe consider asking yourself the question “I’m not free to believe what I believe” and see where it takes you!)
In Galatians, Paul argues that a Christian has been set free for freedom.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. (Gal 5:1)
Wow, what a remarkable statement. Looking at it, it seems a little superfluous, a little bit silly that freedom results from being set free. Doesn’t it?
But, what if we were made so free by Jesus, that we even have the choice to do the things that Jesus set us free from?
That would make us truly free.
Take for example, the prisoner that has been set free. He walks out of his cell, into the bright sun. Basking in it for a while, he says “That’s enough freedom for me. I’m going back to my cell!” He returns to his cell and gets the jailer to lock the door behind him.
That’s the image I think Paul is trying to capture here.
The prisoner, once free, has returned to the cell which burdened him.
The prisoner, although completely free to exit the prison for life, returns to it. Imprisoned again.
That is why Paul gives the warning to the Galatians:
Stand firm therefore, and do not let yourselves be burdened by the yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:2)
The Christian is completely free to make decisions. But we can make silly ones. A silly one would be to return to sin and the law, which is what Paul has been warning about in Galatians. That would be silly because we would be enslaved to sin, which results in our eternal death.
So, what is true freedom?
True freedom is living and walking in the Spirit, not gratifying the desires of the flesh. God’s Spirit gives us complete freedom to choose life, rather than death. That means putting to death actions and desires which are contrary to the character of God and his gospel. Our old selves have been crucified on the cross. Are we going to jump right back into those deadly cells?
So, how are we going at that? Are we living as free people, or as slaves to sin? Are we using our freedom for God, or are we consumed by selfish ambition?
The key to understanding freedom in Jesus is this: are we using our freedom to serve each other in love? The whole law is summarised by love. So do we love others as much as ourselves?
Loving each other in God’s service is true freedom.