“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
I’ve spent the entire New Year so far proving that Paul’s gospel is NOT an exclusive, religion based, belief system that is only offered to churchgoers. Instead, Paul is adamant that the gospel is an all-inclusive message that liberates people without subscribing to a religion. The work of Christ is not limited to those who lay claim to Christianity any more than it was for those who lay claim to Abraham (Galatians 3:14).
Freedom is not contingent on everything going as planned. It’s not a transaction. It’s not a quid pro quo. It’s not earned by religious affiliation or practice. Freedom is not a thing to possess, but a state of being. Until we learn this, freedom will elude us. Freedom is ONTOLOGICAL! This illuminates our three-sided cages. It means that we no longer have to search for a key or wait for the jailer to open the door, we simply need to turn around (metanoia /rethink or repent) and see that there is no wall on the back side of our cell. The Gospel says we can just walk right out into our freedom. No strings attached.
Inner freedom is the prerequisite for outer freedom!
As we examine our lives and the lives of those around us, it’s quite obvious that most of us are not free. Most people are not living emotionally free from their families (never leaving nor cleaving). Nor are we financially free, nor vocationally free, nor spiritually free from our religious tradition, nor free from our pasts, nor free to dream and hope. We live in countless prisons, not because we can’t free ourselves, but because we simply won’t. People ask if I believe in a literal Hell. Isn’t a living Hell the perfect definition of how most people live?
Fear of the unknown is inner captivity. Bondage is distrusting the freedom available right now.
Our institutions don’t want us to be free. If we derive our identity from the rules of any institution, then inner freedom will be of no value to us (Galatians 5:2). Freedom eludes those who prefer to be governed. Obligation to family, religion, occupation, or country is a prison that masks itself as the nobility of serving in love. Love never experiences obligation or duty, because love compels us to serve from a place of inner freedom.
Paul’s wisdom reveals that we don’t become captives by passively being overtaken. We welcome captivity by surrendering our freedom. “Henhexomai” means to submit to slavery or control. The point Paul is making is that we are heirs (4:7), sons and daughters of God. We don’t have stay in our cages, the resources of God are available to us each in each present moment. How do we miss this? How have we got ourselves into bondage?
The answer is simple, but the solution is not so easy. When we can’t tell the difference between them, we willingly trade our freedom for bondage. We can’t tell because we can’t “see.” For example: a job that offers more money may promise financial liberation, but actually imprisons our time and we just move from one cage to another. We ensnare ourselves in obligation because we assume it brings us approval, status, or power– thus we lose outer freedom because we lack inner freedom. We stay in dead end jobs, relationships, and geographies because we’ve given our power to family or other institutions. We cling to the bars of our three-sided prisons, because sleeping into poverty is easier than the discipline of staying awake.
We submit to bondage because it’s not as scary, uncertain, or nebulous as a free life. Think about it. When I un-coach people, I always expose how one’s lack of “success” is not usually overcome by adding effort and output to an already busy life. Freedom begins the moment we lay claim to our inheritance and enjoy that which we already possess.
“Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only fatih working through love.” (Galatians 5:6)
Paul is is showing us that freedom is first about being (ontology). Our doing counts for very little until we have inner freedom. We endure bondage because we think we need to wait it out. We have one-day disease. Freedom means we can begin living a free life now. Faith working through love means our life moves into increasing conformity to freedom so long as we remain free. Like getting into shape, or out of debt, our lives conform to our beliefs (faith). Faith working through love enables us to negotiate the world in a counter-intuitive way. Paul calls this living in the Spirit, I call it FLOW.
Try this. You are free right now to reconnect to your Maker (like charging a phone). While alive, we all get the same 24 hours. We all have five to ten minutes everyday to simply sit still and be present. Don’t do anything. Just be. Don’t think. Just breath. Become aware of your body, your life, your living, your being. As you become aware, be grateful and bask in the gift of this freedom, if only for a moment. “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour?” (Mark 14:37) Eventually, we begin to live from this power source of being rather than return every now and then to charge up.
Now we are all free to do this every day, so why don’t we? Why do we choose something that seems more important than inner freedom and then complain that our lives are not free? It’s not easy because a shadow has been cast over the light within us. We will explore this next week.