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
What is it about freedom that both inspires and terrifies us?
Since the dawn of humanity, we have experimented with harnessing and loosing freedoms again and again. History shows us leaders who both fought to abolish boundaries and those who believed freedom to be the birthplace of mankind’s bend towards evil. The way we set up our governments reflect where we fall in our beliefs about freedom, and yet the pendulum is always swinging.
If you don’t believe this to be true, just look at our laws. Look at recent congressional decisions, the way our nation reacts and responds. We are constantly in debate about which rights belong to us and which rights (freedoms) are unjust, morally wrong, inconsistent, illogical. The arguments for or against become complex and nuanced, adopted by political parties and used as pawns in a never-ending political chess match.
As far as I can tell though, the heart of these arguments comes back to one core question: Can humans handle freedom?
The interesting thing is when we go to the word of God, the answer to this seems to be both yes and no. One of the many beautiful nuances of the faith we follow, is that our human debates are elevated into another realm altogether.
…You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
– Galatians 5:13-14
When I read Galatians 5, I see a powerful exposition on what humankind can do with freedom. If we let our flesh, our very nature, take over, wickedness abounds. At the same time, if we use man-made laws and regulation to govern ourselves and those around us, we can quickly create a false sense of salvation.
God created us as free. Even the tethers of religion are undone in Jesus’s final miracle, and yet our personal freedom to make decisions, act, speak, and even think is given guiderails. We are asked to evaluate ourselves to see if our freedom follows the leading of a loving Spirit—God’s own Spirit.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.
– Corinthians 6:12
The challenge for Christians has been and will always be to view freedom with an entirely different frame than the culture around us. We have the opportunity to show our friends, family, and neighbors that yes, we believe in freedom! However, our freedom is different. Rather than self-serving it is others-serving; rather than indulgent, it is sacrificial, rather than proud, humble.
Our freedom is governed by the Spirit of a loving God and results in the sweetest fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. And the world is better for it.