“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Galatians 5:13-14 (RSV)
There’s a lot of talk about freedom these days. Some of the conversation centers around what behavior is allowed or mandated and what behavior is not allowed or not mandated because of the pandemic. Certainly the virus is creating problems and difficulties for everyone; it seems that some feel these issues are actually infringing on their freedom. Some just complain (that’s probably most of us); others rebel, feeling the need to publicly demonstrate their objection to the guidelines because they feel them to be truly unjust.
It might help to reflect on the word “freedom”; what it is and what it’s for. The Scripture certainly seems to indicate that freedom is very dear to God’s heart; it’s a large part of why Jesus Christ came to earth and suffered and died for us (see Galatians 5:1). He bought our freedom with His life.
So what is freedom? If we look at the healing miracles of Jesus, much of what he did – healings of lepers and the lame, deliverance from demonic oppression, restoring sight to the blind, releasing people from disabling conditions – resulted in increased freedom for those He healed. His touch, His words, His power liberated them and restored them to their families and communities. It seems He was demonstrating the great good that He, a truly free agent, could do. He showed us what could be accomplished by God through someone who is not hindered by sin and selfishness. And moreover, He said that we, His followers, would do “even greater things” (John 14:12) through the power of the Holy Spirit! Is this what I think of when I think of “my freedom”? Most of the time, no.
Yet that is precisely what true freedom is for; it’s so that we may heed God’s call to serve one another and love others as ourselves. True freedom is not license; it’s not self- indulgence. It’s actually freedom from the enslavement to my “fleshly nature” (using St Paul’s term); that big ME that wants what I want, the way I want it, when I want it. Until we allow the grace and power of God’s Spirit to loosen our death grip on our selfish will, we’re actually not free, for we are victims of our fallen nature and puppets to our bad habits. It’s only as we learn and practice self control through the grace given to us by the Holy Spirit living within us (see Galatians 5:22) that we begin to be really free.
That’s the kind of freedom that Jesus thought was worth giving His life for.