What is Freedom?
Is it the absence of constraints? Is it no one telling me what to do? Or is it something more?
In Galatians 5:13, the apostle Paul writes these words, “For you have been called to live in freedom ....” When I read that, I want to say, “Amen!” especially around the 4th of July. America is, after all, the land of the free and the home of the brave. What feels better than freedom?
But then I see how freedom is sometimes abused. I observe people using their freedom to justify hurting others in order to get their own way. I see people using their freedom of choice to say, “I don’t have to help. It’s not my responsibility.” I see people using their freedom of speech to tear down others, often in order to feel better about themselves.
Freedom, huh? Maybe so, but it doesn’t feel very free to me.
That’s when I have to keep reading. Paul closes that verse with these words, “Use your freedom to serve one another in love.”
Now, wait a minute. If I have to serve others, it doesn’t sound like freedom to me. Serving others sounds like oppression and bondage and, well, not freedom! Oh, but wait. Isn’t that what God consistently calls us to? He tells us that the first shall be last and the last shall be first (Matthew 20:16). He also tells us that if we want to find our life, we must lose it (Matthew 10:39). He even goes so far as to say that it is only when we forgive others that we can receive the forgiveness of God. (Matthew 6: 14-15).
Sounds to me like freedom is a lot more than just not having to follow orders. I believe freedom is more a state of mind and spirit when I am not bound by my own prejudices and my own emotions. Instead, like Paul said, I am free to serve others. I am free to love others without waiting for them to love me first.
In fact, I think that may be the whole message of the gospel. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” He didn’t give us what we deserve for our deeds, but He acted in total freedom to give us what we need and what He wants for us as His dearly beloved children.
As we reflect on the recent Independence Day holiday, what can you do to use your freedom to serve one another in love? Maybe it’s as simple as letting someone else go first. Maybe it’s burying the hatchet on an old disagreement. Maybe it’s showing kindness to a neighbor you barely know. Those acts of kindness are what God intended for us to do with our freedom.