Freed for Freedom

By Bishop Brian Maas

“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1)

Paul’s advice is as timely now as ever, particularly for us as we head into a holiday dedicated to celebrating independence. Paul’s warning is about trading in the freedoms Christ won with his own death on the cross—freedom from sin, death, and the power of evil—for the sake of falling into slavery into one of those same powers in another form.

As we watch yet another round of division within this country in the wake of last week’s Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, it’s good to be reminded that slavery lurks in wait for each of us. Significant, even robust disagreement can be tolerated—necessary, even. But when it devolves into us denying the humanity of another; when we see our opponents as only “them,” somehow of less value to God than “us,” our freedom to judge has turned into a new kind of slavery—slavery to a political party or view, to sexism, racism, nationalism or any of the other -isms that turn whole groups of people into nothing more than “the other.”

Christ died to free us from such inward-turning, self-focused, short-sighted bondage. In the freedom he won for us, we can live beyond the divisions and othering that our culture has made so common and so popular. “We are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves,” to be sure; but Christ has freed us, frees us daily in baptism, so that we don’t have to remain in bondage to anything that would have us look down on, or wholly exclude, another.

Luther went one step further and wrote that our freedom means we can choose to follow the example of Jesus in a life of service to others—not out of obligation, but freely. To serve another not because we must but solely because we can. That’s freedom!

This weekend, as we rightly pause to enjoy and give thanks for the political freedoms we enjoy—including that of the free exercise of religion—let us also be mindful of what we’ve been freed for. We have been set free from any bondage to one group, identity or idea. We have been set free to choose to live as disciples of Jesus Christ; to follow him all the way to the cross, not because we must, but because we are able.

This is the freedom for which we’ve been set free.

In our baptism into Christ, every new day is a day of independence, from any bondage that would separate us from God, or from one another.

“For freedom Christ has set us free.”

Happy Independence Day.