Yesterday was Youth Sunday in the church I’ve been attending, and that means Jr. High and High school kids run the whole service. They do everything, from the announcements to the worship to taking the offering and preaching the sermon. There was not one adult anywhere in the service.
One of the songs they used for worship was a song that ended with the line, “It is for freedom I am set free.” They sang it as part of the worship and they sang it again at the end. It was fitting to focus on this, because the “message” consisted of the testimonies of three high school kids who each had been set free from something horrible in their lives to which they were bound.
However, I have to say that, prior to hearing why this freedom was important to their message, that last line rang my Pharisaical judgment bell, as I reflected on the fact that freedom should never be an end in itself. God wouldn’t elevate freedom to that level. It would be freedom to do something, not just freedom all by itself. Look at America; it’s a country based on freedom, and look where that has gotten us. “Every man for himself,” we used to call it when we were playing games as kids. Freedom is important, but not as a stand-alone.
But suddenly, as I was in the middle of these thoughts — thinking myself superior to these modern worship song writers who don’t know what they are talking about — I reflected on the fact that I had heard that phrase before, and then I remembered where I’d heard it. It was in the Bible, dumbbell! The lyric practically quotes scripture. Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”
So freedom is an end in itself, according to God, at least to the extent that it becomes our possession; what we do with it, I believe, is another issue, but God wants us first and foremost to be free, and not bound to the law (because the law will destroy us).
God values freedom. As long as we remember that it is a gift, not a right. It is what we receive when we come to Christ. We are set free from our sin and our guilt, and from trying to please God or earn our salvation.
Now having said that, I wasn’t all wrong, because Peter wrote in his first letter, “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves” (1 Peter 2:16). Here he wants us to use our freedom for something of value — to become servants of God. We serve God because we are free to choose that.
But that’s only after we are free. God wants you free. What you do with that freedom is your choice, but no one can take it away from you. Freedom is an end in itself that we do something with. What will you do with your freedom today?