Freedom is self-actualizing. Freedom fulfills itself. Christ set us free in order for us to be free.
This is somewhat startling. Freedom here is presented as an end in itself. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Not for any other reason. I have to write it again because it is so easy to miss in its blatant celebration of the obvious. Christ set us free in order for us to be free. Being free is what freedom is all about.
In my early songs I wrote a lot about freedom. I’ve wondered sometimes since why I did that. Was I merely expressing the spirit of the age – to throw off all authority in the experience and expression of self? No, I don’t think so.
I was speaking of freedom from bondage to anything other than the Spirit of God. Christianity had been, for me, up until then, the experience of slavery; i.e. slavery to religion – slavery to someone else’s idea of what I was supposed to do and be. Included in that was the slavery of trying to be something I was not.
Certainly this is the freedom of which Paul is speaking in Galatians when he writes in the very next sentence: “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
Now, this slavery could be slavery to anything. In the context, it was the law (in particular the law of circumcision), but in the grand scheme of things, it could be anything. It could be:
- slavery to law
- slavery to rules
- slavery to a stereotype
- slavery to conformity
- slavery to someone else’s definition of who you are
- slavery to sin
- slavery to someone else’s need (codependence)
- slavery to expectations
- slavery to one’s inability to forgive
- slavery to an ideal
- slavery to money, power, prestige
- slavery to work
- slavery to being busy
- slavery to loneliness
- slavery to addictions
- slavery to bad habits
As I work with this, I am suddenly aware of the fact that this list has no end. I could go on and on and on and still come up with something new that can bind you or me and keep us from being free. I’m sure you could add your own things to this list (and you should, for the sole purpose of removing them).
In the story of the dark horse, after a long night of picking their way along a narrow, treacherous path, something exhilarating happens to the band of horses when they first break out into a wide, green meadow in the morning sun. They experience and express their freedom.
“Have you ever watched birds soar and wondered if they do it just for fun? Have you ever heard a coyote howl and wondered if he does it just to feel the lonely night shudder at his ghostly shrill? Have you ever caught a glimpse of horses with their ears laid back in full gallop and wondered if they do it just to hear their hooves beat the ground and echo back off canyon walls like a thousand pounding drums?”
They do. And they did.
These horses were suddenly free to be free. This is not just a nice picture to have in our minds; it is the way Christ wants us to live, and it is the way He plans to work in our lives. The result of this freedom is that we are free to be led by the Spirit from the inner workings of a heart set free, not an outer bondage. Free to be led by an inner drive, not an outer conformity. This is the law written on our hearts, not on tablets of stone. This is God’s spirit loose in our lives.
This is what Jeremiah meant when he prophesied concerning a new covenant God would make with his people. “‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, “Know the Lord,” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:33-34).
That is being led by the Spirit, “and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is [you guessed it] freedom” 2 Corinthians 3:17).
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1).
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