Paul says in Galatians 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” This would lead some to the conclusion that by standing firm on things I feel are infringing on my freedom that I am standing up for Jesus. In America we have a very individualistic view of our lives and our freedom. The phrase “Don’t tread on me” makes this point quite clear. I can do what I want and you don’t have the right to tell me no. However, Paul goes on to say just a few verses later in Galatians: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13 In other words Jesus didn’t give me freedom to do whatever. He gave me freedom from “self”, from the control of sin over my life, so that I could serve him whole heartedly.
Again Paul declares to the Roman church, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1-4. We are freed from sin, something we could not do on our own. But the goal of this freedom isn’t to put myself first, but to serve in the new way of the Spirit.
How should this view of freedom look in our lives? Instead of turning our backs on the needs of others, we need to reach out in love. This is a message from Jesus throughout the New Testament. We see this as responsibility, Jesus sees it as privilege. I am free from sin. Paul tells us that before Jesus we were slaves to sin, with a responsibility to our sin nature. But that person has died and dead men owe nothing to the life they had before, so I am free of my sin nature. We are alive in Christ, great privilege, with a responsibility to live in and by the Spirit.
The freedom we have then is freedom to serve. Being selfish and self-absorbed in our freedom reflects the old view, my sinful nature. What that says is that I’m not really free in Jesus but still a slave to my sin. Once I truly accept my forgiveness and peace with God through faith in Jesus, then I am free, free indeed.