What is Freedom?
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." - Galatians 5:1
The idea of "freedom" is a tricky one. The truth is, our ability to comprehend true freedom is severely restricted by the fact that most of us have never actually experienced it. Most of us have experienced a "pseudo-freedom" that makes us feel free while at the same time restricting our actual freedom.
When we were kids, that first time we could ride our bikes somewhere without our parents felt like freedom.
When we turned 16 and we drove our friends somewhere without an adult, we experienced "freedom."
When we went to college and/or lived on our own for the first time...we were free to do our own thing when we wanted to do it.
Then, many of us either started a business or worked our way up in a company to experience more freedom in our schedule and/or finances.
But the truth is that none of those things equate to real freedom. They all come with restrictions that, if those restrictions are ignored, take away the "freedom" that we believed we had.
On the 4th of July and other patriotic holidays, we celebrate the freedom that we have as Americans, and as Americans we have far more freedoms than most. At All Things New, we have kids from the age of 7 to the age of 18, and they will never experience the same freedom that my 5-year-old has already experienced simply from living in America. Freedom does not mean the same thing here that it does in Haiti.
As Americans, we talk about the ultimate sacrifice that people paid for our freedom and we shoot off fireworks and eat barbecue and watermelon, and all because...We are free.
The funny thing is that we only set off fireworks because some states allow it.
We only grill if we live in a home where the HOA or apartment rules allow it.
We love our freedom of speech, but do not yell out "fire" in a crowded restaurant or post something on Facebook that your company doesn't like.
We love the freedom to drive wherever we want...As long as we go the speed limit.
Topics like gun ownership, abortions, marriage rights, religious expression, etc. all boil down to the idea of freedom, but only when that freedom is granted and only if we follow certain social norms that allow that freedom to remain unimpeded. In each of those topics, we believe that certain freedoms should be granted to us while the freedoms that other people clamor for should be ignored.
It is with all of these preconceived notions, and many more, that we view Galatians 5:1, and it is all of these preconceived notions that make us miss the true beauty of true freedom in Christ.
We are so used to living in oppression and restrictions dressed up like freedom that we do not even recognize the lack of integrity we have when we tell people we are "free."
Freedom in Christ is not following certain rules, sitting in certain seats, and singing certain songs. Freedom in Christ does not go away when we mess up. Freedom in Christ is unlimited and is not taken away if certain rules or social constructs are not followed.
The freedom described in Galatians 5:1 is the opposite of the slavery that most people live in.
Galatians 5:1 calls us to love and enjoy freedom for the sake of freedom. Even in our relationship with Jesus, we trap and oppress ourselves to the point that we miss the very freedom and joy that we were given by Jesus.
We get bogged down in trying to follow our idea of God's will rather than enjoying the freedom of His love, and the very point of following God's will is that we get to live in His freedom.
Where should we work, who should we marry, where should we go to school, how should we talk, and a myriad of other questions and decisions that we face every day trap us in a loveless relationship with God focused on rules and trying to make sure we do exactly what we think God wants us to do.
While we are trying to answer those questions, for God, God is telling us to enjoy the freedom we have in Jesus. He is telling us to pursue Him and the freedom that we receive from that pursuit answers those questions. Jesus did not die for us to live a life of fear thinking that we are going to "mess up" at every turn.
Jesus set us free!
The freedom that Christ gives flies in the face of sin, oppression, and uncertainty. His freedom is not an idea that can be taken from us because of what we do, it is a gift from Him that is there no matter what.
The 4th of July should be a celebration of the limited freedom that we have as Americans because that limited freedom is more than most people will ever experience here on earth.
However, the 4th of July should also be a deeper reminder of the true and perfect freedom that we have in Christ. It should be a reminder that we can either live in that freedom every day or we can forfeit that freedom to the fear and oppression that we place on ourselves every day.