Maturity and Freedom

Freedom is the vaunted prize of all western countries. Politicians croon over it. Songs are written about it. Universities debate it. Millions have lost their lives to secure it. We all need to be thankful for it. There’s an obvious price paid for freedom, for history shows it had to be wrenched from the controlling few.

The New Testament book of Galatians is all about freedom. The word is used twice by the apostle Paul in it’s five chapters, and liberty once. Like political freedom, religious freedom also came with a price – the sacrifice of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. This kind of freedom could not be achieved by man alone. God’s Son came to earth to give it to us with the ultimate sacrifice.

The apostle said, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free” (5:1). He urged us to “stand firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” We are not only free from sin – its practice and consequences – but also from the law. Law in Galatians is the dependence on human works to achieve our own salvation. We need freedom from it because we can never reach its requirements. This is why the Law of Moses, as great as it was, could never save the Jews (2:16). Jesus set us free by grace. We certainly do works, but we do them out of gratefulness to God and concern for others. Paul explained it this way, “faith working through love” (5:6).

The world gets freedom mixed up. It thinks we should be free from any self-control or moral value. We make a big mistake when we think freedom is “all about me.” That leads to enslavement to sin and disaster. Paul warns, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (5:13). Freedom always demands self-control and respect. That keeps us from “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strive, jealousy…” (v19-21). Rather, mature freedom fosters “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (5:22-24).

What Jesus gave us is worth preserving and protecting. We let no man take it from us, nor will we fool with it and destroy it. Freedom demands our sacrifice and obedience to God.

– Tim Johnson