Ever visited a prison before? Last month I had the opportunity to visit a friend in prison for the second time. My friend has already served many years of a life sentence, but he is hopeful that in the next few years he will get parole. We had a wonderful visit and it was fascinating (and sad) to hear some of what prison life is like. As we finished up our visit, I prayed for him and tried to encourage him in the Lord.
Leaving the premises, I couldn’t help but take note of the striking contrast between the two of us. My friend was locked up in prison, unable to even visit the town that the prison is situated in. On the other hand, as I left the prison facility, I could have gone anywhere I wanted. This knowledge that I could do anything and go anywhere I wanted hit home to me in that moment.
I think it would be fair to say that most people take their freedom for granted. Another friend of mine, if you were to ask him how he was doing, would most likely say….”almost as I please.” I always laugh when he says that, but he’s exactly right. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, we do as we please. That is the amazing liberty we enjoy.
The Bible actually speaks to the matter of freedom. That is not surprising because the Bible speaks to everything that is truly important. But 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.” In other words, to be “in Christ” means that you have been set free. You might be locked up in prison, or living in a communist country, or even in the bonds of slavery, yet if you are in Christ, you are free! You are no longer in bondage to sin and because of grace, you can now live as God intends for you to live.
Martin Luther famously said, “A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one” (On Christian Freedom, 1520). The freedom of a Christian is a theme you will find throughout Paul’s letters, but also with the apostle John. “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” (Revelation 1:5b). But now that we are free, the Christian is a servant of all and a “slave of righteousness” (Romans 6:18). Our freedom does not mean license to sin; rather, it is an opportunity to serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13).
Even though the culture has never before been so hostile to Christians, the one thing everyone can agree on is that freedom is essential. It’s just that we have very different ideas about freedom. It’s not freedom to do whatever you please, it is freedom to serve and love and to live lives that point others to the power of the gospel. It is critically important for us to grasp the nature of our freedom. In the same way that it is easy to take our freedom as citizens for granted, so too is it possible to take our freedom in Christ for granted.
My hope and prayer for you, dear Christian, is that you will embrace your freedom and never forget mighty work of deliverance God has wrought in our lives through faith in Jesus Christ. We don’t have to submit to the demands of our sin nature. In the words of Jesus, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed! (John 8:36). What a glorious reality! Lastly, may this knowledge serve as an impetus to evangelize and share the hope that we have to those still in bondage to sin.