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 NIV)
I’m not a Bible scholar. It took me a number of years to figure out the first sentence in that verse. For a long time, I thought the author had cheated and used the word in the definition. And now I certainly don’t profess that I have it nailed down, but over the last few years I have greatly grown in my understanding and appreciation for this verse.
As I get older I learn more and more what true freedom is all about. I heard a brilliant sermon many moons back where the speaker gave freedom in Christ this definition…it’s not the freedom to do anything you like. It’s the freedom to do anything you like under God’s law. You’ve already chosen God’s will and authority to guide your life, and you continue to choose to maneuver within it…or something like that but probably more poetic. The point is that your freedom has already been given to you. You decide what to do with it. So what will you do with it?
I’ve always had a special burden and ache in my heart for people groups who were oppressed, without freedom. I’m not sure exactly why; I guess it’s just the way God made me. I’d consider myself fiercely independent, so maybe the thought of losing that is too much to consider, or stand for. The Jews, Civil Rights, and modern-day slavery–it all just hits me in a way a lot of other atrocities don’t. It fascinates and confuses me. It makes me not only balk at the injustices that people can inflict or turn their eyes from, it constantly asks me what I would do; what I will do.
Over the last few months I’ve been studying Esther with my friend, Lauren. We’ve been going through Beth Moore’s study on Queen Esther, It’s Tough Being a Woman. Truthfully, I know this statement is borderline blasphemy, but I really don’t care for Beth Moore’s style. I’d tried one of her studies before and couldn’t even finish it. If Lauren hadn’t suggested it, I never would’ve opened it with that title. It’s just not for me. But I thought the overall content was really good, and I’ve taken away a lot of insight in the process. And it’s given me greater context for Esther’s story and the circumstances of the Jews at that time.
One of things I’ve been reminded of over and over again is that the Jews had assimilated into the culture. They were no longer living as Jews, God’s chosen people who were set apart. It was not until they were threatened with extinction did they kneel back down to pray. I don’t want to be like that, but darn it if that doesn’t describe me too much of the time. So, I ask myself, if I were living as a Jew at that time, would I be any different?
I also recently watched the movie Amistad. I don’t know how I’m just watching it. I should be ashamed. It was amazing. Nonetheless, yet again I’m presented with and captivated by a people who are oppressed, slaves. And there were bold and courageous people fighting on their side. So, I ask myself, if I were living at that time, what would I do?
But one thing I forget time and time again is that I have been a slave. Certainly not publicly oppressed or scoffed as the these people were, and as some people today are, but I was a slave to sin before I gave my life to Christ. Just as the Jews in Esther’s day, there is too much of life I’ve assimilated into when the truth is that I need to live more as a freed slave. My life of a slave is over, but it’s never to be forgotten.
The Jews had Purim, a time to annually remember the time God saved them from annihilation. And they partied. They still party. It’s a feast and festival, and time of joyful remembrance. And I have Easter, a day that marks not just the sacrifice, but the triumph over Hell with Jesus’ resurrection. Now that’s party worthy! I should be having that party every day in some way!
I know because I grew up as part of the church, which I’m thankful for, I have a great tendency to desensitize the Bible and my salvation. Like all things that aren’t new, and I love new things, I kinda forget how special they are. I kinda just take them for granted. I kinda just assimilate them into my life and move on, looking for the next shiny object to grab my attention.
There is a really powerful courtroom scene in Amistand where the highly underrated and always brilliant Djimon Honsou stands up and pleads to the court in the few words of English he’s learned in prison, “Give us, us freedom!” And he says it over and over again. (I balled like a baby. I’ve got to admit that there are times I’m just not in a good place and inside I’m yelling “Give us, us freedom!” I’m so confused and upset with God that I just don’t understand why I’m in a situation. But the truth is, I’m already a freed slave. My freedom has already been given. But how do I thank Him? How do I live? Why do I keep forgetting?
So I ask myself again, given what I know and who I am (a freed slave), what will I do?
I’ve decided that I will be a freed slave who works to free other slaves. As a Christian, I believe all freed slaves should be working to free others, both spiritually and physically. And I think we should assimilate less, and have Jesus parties a lot more.
Here’s a sweet retelling of Christ’s story from Amistad. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFmFX5nug4w
And he’s right, it doesn’t look so bad. In fact, it’ll be awesome. So, I need to make sure others are at the party.
After all, it is for freedom that I have been set free.
Free the slaves.