It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
It seems to me that the Church is in a very deep and dark identity crisis. And I think it may be related to our twisted understanding of freedom. The scriptures are filled with discussion about true freedom. For example, we read in 1 Peter 3:13-17:
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
Reading these words, I have to confess that this is not always the reality of my walk. I am forced to ask myself some hard questions, like:
“Am I truly free of fear, or do I live terrified of all of the ‘what-ifs’ plaguing the society around me?”
“When was the last time someone asked me to give a ‘reason for the hope’ that I have? Am I truly radiating the hope and peace we have in Christ? Or am I radiating anxiety and hopelessness, convinced the world is just falling apart around me?”
“Am I walking in the true freedom we have been given in Christ? Or am I choosing to carry the yokes of sin and fear and darkness? Am I settling for the distorted version of freedom being sold by much of the Church today?”
Some more specific examples I have been considering in my life:
– Am I free from the need to defend myself? I confess that I don’t want to speak less and listen more. I want to tell people all about how good I am in all of the areas of my life. I want to prove to others how well-read and intellectually gifted I am. When people speak falsely or maliciously about me behind my back, I want to confront them and tell them how wrong they were about the things they said.
– Am I free from the need to protect myself? I confess that don’t want to forgive the people who have hurt me. I want to keep my defenses up, and avoid those people at all costs, so that they will know that I am not a doormat, that they have not gotten the best of me, that I am onto their ways and can not be tricked or manipulated by them. And so I let bitterness and resentment control me, to determine the way I see myself and the world.
– Am I free from the need to prove myself? I confess that want to be popular among men. I want the world to respect me for my education, and my money, and my accomplishments, and my benevolence. I don’t want people to avoid me because of the presence of God’s love in my life. I want them to praise me for it. And so I let the opinions of people around me control me and the way I see myself and the world. I am not free.
– Am I free from fear? God’s Word says that perfect love drives out all fear (1 John 4:18). But I confess that often I do not choose to focus on and rest in the perfect love of Christ. Instead, I choose to sit and listen to the hours and hours of fear-inducing news reports, and choose to lie awake in bed at night trying to envision all of the horrible “what-if” scenarios I’ve been told I need to fear. I allow the fear to control me, to rob me of joy, and rest – all of the things Christ died to bring me. I do not trust in the love of God, and so choose to continue to follow in the ways of man, and to live in fear.
– Am I free to trust in God’s perfect wisdom? I confess that I so often choose to sit in the classroom of others I idolize, rather than to take any steps of real faith in the real world in my own life. I fill days with the teachings, approvals, and analysis of others more than I do the teaching of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God. I continue to follow the “wisdom” of the masses, instead of entering into my prayer closet, seeking the perfect wisdom of God.
– Am I free from darkness, sin and addiction in my life? I confess that often I choose to remain a slave to the immediate, temporary, dark and ultimately empty addictions in my life. (Especially if everyone else around me is doing the same thing!) I choose to spend my time in front of the television, watching the lives of others, rather than spending it in the presence of God, learning to hear His voice, allowing Him to cleanse from me the garbage in my life that keeps me bound, allowing Him to set me free.
We can’t continue to just submit to the “status quo” of freedom being displayed in so much of the Church today. We must be willing to step into the knowledge of the Word of God in our lives, to let the perfect love of Christ fill our hearts and minds, to no longer accept and conform to the reality of the Church around us, but to let God renew our ways of thinking, so that we will be transformed – so that we will be free.