Hello! How are you? Around here it’s a merry-go-round of Teddy Bears’ Picnics, teacher presents, Sports Days, fairs and assemblies – Freddie’s first year at school is drawing to a close. I’m grateful to the staff members and other families who have made this year totally amazing, but sad too that our association with the school’s wonderful Early Years unit is coming to an end. One of the toughest things about not having had a second child is that when a golden chapter ends for Freddie, it ends for me and Martyn too. In the past I’ve been upbeat about this, but less so as Freddie gets older and the reality dawns that this is it.
I’ve been taking a lot of comfort from blogging. If you’re new to this series, I’ve been looking at some of the Bible verses I’ve been pondering as the blog came into being. I’ve posted under the titles of Abundance/Fullness of Life, and Safety.
On to Freedom.
I have the privilege of living in a free society. Heartbreaking news stories of injustice and oppression show us daily that freedom isn’t free – people die for it. If we haven’t witnessed others die for freedom, it’s easy to take it for granted. Freedom is different from independence – it is in fact a precious commodity to be treasured and, if necessary, defended. The ultimate champion of freedom is Jesus Christ, who according to Luke 4:18-19 started his public ministry by telling Jews in Nazareth, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” It’s his sort of manifesto – and I hope it’s mine, too.
The apostle Paul tells the early church in Corinth, ‘Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’ (2 Corinthians 3:17). So, although freedom may look different for different people, the promise is that there is always freedom in the presence of God. What does freedom look like for me? Well, I’m naturally a very legalistic person, so for me it’s freedom from rules and regulations. I think of how easily snared I am by them – “I’m trying to lose weight so I should bike from A to B in the pouring rain rather than get the bus”. It doesn’t feel like freedom! I think of when I first became a Christian, feeling guilty when I discovered I didn’t particularly enjoy keeping a spiritual journal and having to find time to write in it every day. It didn’t feel like freedom! And why not?
Because that’s not who God is.
Sometimes people make God sound like that, but that’s not the God we meet in the Bible. In fact, the Bible repeatedly celebrates the freedom that Christ has won for us: ‘So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’ (John 8:36), ‘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). In fact, slavery gets a few bashings – ‘The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father”‘ (Romans 8:15). Paradoxically, my heavenly Dad, my Abba, often gently twists and turns that rules-based side of my character to show me more about freedom. When I fail to follow my own self-imposed regimes, it’s a reminder that I can’t, but God can. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and the king of kings and lord of lords is more than able to do what my frail human self can’t.
I think all this freedom can be overwhelming – people actually feel guilty about being free. We feel we don’t deserve it. But guess what? That’s the point. This freedom is an undeserved gift, bought for us on the cross when we had turned away. This is amazing love.
The lie: that I don’t deserve to be free.
The truth: ‘The Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline’ (2 Timothy 1:7). Let’s shed the guilt and be thankful for this gift!
– What does freedom mean to you?
– Do you get annoyed too when people confuse freedom with independence? (Or any other words in the English lexicon, for that matter – fellow language nitpickers, you’re safe with me!)