We were born to be free.
We really were and it is self evident when we first realize that we are not the same person as our mother, but an individual with the ability to say “no!” Any 2 year old worth his/her salt, will clearly indicate their new found liberty in many loud and impenitent ways. An interesting side note here, but this is the penultimate age in childhood development where we begin to see the individualization of mother and child. It’s commonly understood, and I will elaborate later on this, that it takes a year or two for the child to recognize his/her own individuality, that is, “I am not my mom and she is not me”. Which manifests as the first levels of relational disagreement. This same behaviour is revisited in the 2nd individualization stage of childhood development, namely a child’s early teens. Misdiagnosed, It is the cause of many parent-child relationship struggles and disconnects because we as parents can sometimes see disagreement as opposition to reason and not an indication of a fight for the of individualizing and lessons in self strength. Somehow we with wish all of our life experience would automatically be transferred into them and they could start where we ended off. Unfortunately wisdom is not acquired by osmosis, genealogy or birth-right. Wisdom’s value is in the cost and effort it took to acquire it. Wisdom as defined by Merriam-Webster as the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.
Liberty and self power, self dominion or self control is the attribute we desperately need as adults in order to thrive in a world of unlimited choices. Parents who failed at seeing disagreement or individualization as a tool of learning and growing can potentially rob a child of the very survival tools they need to make the best of the most difficult life choices.
Two thoughts that emerge, we need freedom and self control and we are our best when we are truly free and completely empowered. We were designed to be free. Men who own their choices, resist the shackles of bondage and question the status quo are attractive, provocative and inspiring to hang around with. They make great dads, husbands, leaders and friends.
We don’t always know what it is, but we innately recognize freedom in someone and it’s extremely attractive. I heard the evangelist Bill Hogg define attractiveness as “People are attracted to you by they way they feel about themselves around you” We love freedom. We love to feel free. We love it when we are challenged to be more free. Free people seem to both challenge our world of rules and at the same time they seem to be having more fun than anyone else. It’s intoxicating.
Danny Silk defined freedom as a place “where they rules don’t apply.” What does that mean? I was traveling with Danny once, and there was a sign on a mat outside the entrance to the aircraft that said, “Do Not Step”. Next thing I hear is an alarm goes off for just a second, Danny has a smirk on his face and he turns to the flight crew pointing to me and says: “He did it!” I would never have done it! I was really challenged and at the same time felt the exhilaration of not being limited by the rules. There is something profound about knowing that the rules can’t take away your freedom. This makes the rules lose their power over you. The difference might be best explained in this example. When driving on the highway, if all that is keeping you from speeding is the fear of being caught or fear of breaking the rules versus not speeding because it’s unsafe, then you are more concerned about keeping the rules than the reason the rule exists in the first place. You might say well we need the rules lest the world falls into anarchy. I would agree, rules are created for lowest common denominator and worst case scenario. They are created for people out of control and especially for those who would abuse themselves and others. If you are fully willing to accept the consequences and you are self-controlled, the rules don’t apply. You live in a way that doesn’t serve the rules. You live in a way that is governed by an internal reality.
Mark Peterson on day suggested we go skinny dipping… I felt this surge of fear and excitement because some how as a 38year old a the time I had experienced some body shaming combined with the fact that we are adults now. Adults don’t skinny dip do they? I knew right away fear and shame created an internal rule that wasn’t true. Since I have challenged myself to undo this fear, I have skinny dipped, alone, with other men and it has been so liberating.
I am not saying rules are completely relative, because obviously if your internal reality is causing harm to society and people there are real external consequences for those who need them. I am saying what is telling you ‘no’? The fear of punishment? The fear of being a rule breaker? The shame?
Freedom is the ability to do what is right without having to ask permission from fear, shame and the rules. Bravery looks like accepting the consequences of free choices. In context, sexual freedom looks like the ability to love only your wife without fear of missing out on someone else or someone better driving you to search the available merchandise. Simultaneously it looks like shunning religious fear and shame by coming to terms with the fact that you can’t out-sin God’s love for you. You are both free to live well, and free to live badly. The difference is that the brave live free and accept the consequences of their choices.
So what is freedom really?
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again (again) to a yoke of slavery.
Freedom here is referring to the chapters before where Paul outlines the difference between the children of promise versus the children of the slave girl. For those not familiar with the story:
The promise was that Abraham would be the father of nations. That Abraham would be a great nation, his name would be great so that he will be a blessing to all peoples of the earth. Abraham’s descendants would fill the promised land and then many nations. (Read Gen 15)
Abraham, considering how old his wife Sarah was, slept with his wife’s slave, Hagar, and she gave birth to Ishmael. Gal 4 refers to this first son of Abraham to be the son of flesh because Abraham and Sarah acted from the their best guess, from the flesh. They acted from the best hope their flesh could muster. Paul contrasts it with the son of promise, Isaac, Abraham’s second son who was conceived by faith or the act of hoping in the promise of God because Abraham considered what he knew about God. The reference is that by the same faith we are children of the promise, not children of best guess, or our best efforts. We inherit the promise of Abraham by faith, (read Roman 4) and we do not inherit the curse of the fleshly decisions.
We inherit this promise of Abraham by the very same faith. That by the same faith we would be part of a the family of God or God’s people, our name would be great so that we could be a blessing to the whole earth and our descendants would occupy the nations. By faith we occupy our adopted inheritance as sons and daughters of the King of kings. We consider the promise of God, we hope against our natural hope, we do not waver in unbelief and take a hold of our promise by acts faith. This is the summize of Paul’s message to the Galatians, Romans and us.
So Gal 5, says it was for this liberty that we were set free. What does that mean. We were set free from the curse or bondage of fleshly slavery. This means that by faith we have acquired a more excellent way, the way of the spirit, a way of freedom from the rules. Freedom from the bondage of the rules and it’s external religious demands. They appear as wisdom, but they have in them a liability of wrath and of death. Rules define the limits and by implication, the external qualifications that define your internal reality, but our internal reality is not governed by rules, but by relationship with Jesus. You were once a slave to your lusts and desires along with a slave to the expectation or letter of the law or implied rules of behaviour.
Before I lose you, let me make it relatable. Since I have been saved I have been convicted that my external behaviours didn’t match my internal reality. That is a fun way to say I knew when I screwed up. I knew as an early child, right and wrong and not just from what my parents or society communicated. I had an internal knowing that certain of my behaviours didn’t match up with how “clean” I felt on the inside. So I attempted, at best, to manage them based on my expectation and the expectations of the Christian upbringing I was exposed to. I learned early on to masturbate to pornography, and yet I was torn on the inside when I thought about it. I didn’t get struck by lightening and angels didn’t show up to evict me from the family, but I knew something wasn’t “right” about it. Struggling long enough in it, I began to drown out that inner voice and I would reason with it, to silence it’s effect. This normalized my way of living, but drove me to want more distance from God, Christians and even my wife and children. It wasn’t till I started pursuing God again that the voice got louder till I couldn’t ignore it. It wasn’t till I struggled to redefine this normal that I experienced the power to live differently. It was the fight of and for my life. Now it’s easy to see the difference. It’s easy to compare it to the light I live in now, and it’s obvious
In Galatians 3, Paul refers to the Galatians as being foolish trying to be perfected by the rules of the flesh and by implication making Jesus’ sacrifice meaningless. He says later 5:1, do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and (self) discipline.
2 Tim 1:7