We love the idea of freedom, don’t we? Yet, freedom is delicate and subtle. Freedom used in the wrong way is easily perverted. As a result, freedom is squandered, and then the opportunity is lost. World history is littered with examples of nations that gained freedom for a short season and then lost freedom for a long season.
There was a church in Galatia that lost its freedom. First, they forfeited their God-given freedom by giving in to heretical teachers who took away their freedom. Then they empowered themselves with their forfeited truth. The church’s founder and father, the Apostle Paul, shocked by what happened, wrote a letter to them about freedom. Paul warns them to look out for “freedom nappers.” Here is part of what Paul wrote.
“Those heretical teachers go to great lengths to flatter you, but their motives are rotten. They want to shut you out of the free world of God’s grace so that you will always depend on them for approval and direction, making them feel important.” One translation calls these heretical teachers “paper tigers.”
If the Galatician church had freedom challenges from those inside of it, think of the freedom challenges that governments, nations and institutions will have from those on the inside.
When some people get their hands on position and power, they often use their position to control others, either putting or keeping them “in their place.” The history of peoples, nations, governments, businesses, churches and the like is long and tedious. Without God and a sound moral compass, most leaders seek absolute power that corrupts them absolutely. Once leaders, governments or institutions get into power, their goal becomes to gain more control.
Nations or institutions often start right but end wrong. These entities or leaders gained freedom through many toils, trials and snares.
As a result, freedom-loving people grew and prospered. Then the paper tigers with the old, controlling way of thought, who think they have a new way of thought, start calling the freedom way of living into question. They challenge the views, values and vision of freedom. They focus on the problems that responsible freedom allows. They make it seem like the freedom of living doesn’t work.
Eventually, the freedom of living people caves into those who call their freedom into question. After all, they have a degree and are on television. However, it’s not the rules and regulations that ensnare freedom lovers. Instead, fickleness; short memory; and a propensity to be seduced by words, optics and flattery trap them. Their naivety and lack of discernment snare them. The result is those who started with freedom end up losing their freedom.
Those who originally taught the Galatians about freedom, like the Apostle Paul, were perplexed. How could the Galatians give up their God-given freedom so quickly and easily? Their line of questioning would be like this. “Why did you rebuild the old dysfunctional barn we tore down? Who has bewitched you? Why the detour? Why give up your freedom for a paper tiger-created dos and don’ts system? Why did you trade inside transformation from Jesus for outside legislation by paper tigers?”
Everyone has God-given power and rights. When someone gives up their freedom for conformity or safety, codependency results. Codependency herds people into a controlled and obligated corral of bondage.
Observe the wisdom from the Scriptures about freedom. “It is clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to (voluntarily) serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows.” Have you noticed paper tigers don’t do that?
Just like a river has borders, freedom has borders. However, a river without borders is a swamp. The same is true of freedom. Being totally “free” and without restraint leads to a swamp of bondage. I call that “free-dumb.” For example, freedom from lying and stealing is better than the freedom to lie and steal. That’s not freedom, it’s bondage. Absolute freedom requires responsibility and self-control powered by God.
Freedom is an inside job. God sets us free on the inside so we can live “free” on the outside. God writes His laws in our hearts and conscience. God wants people to be free of the things that entangle us. Freedom does not come from information, indoctrination or conformation. Freedom comes from transformation. And the rest is history.
Freedom is high octane. We need God’s wisdom in using real freedom from the scriptures, or we will have perverted freedom. Why? Eugene Peterson says it perfectly. “Freedom is a delicate and subtle gift, easily perverted and often squandered.” For freedom, Christ set us free.
So don’t use your freedom as an opportunity to do whatever you want whenever you want. That behavior leads to bondage.
One more word of encouragement. The truth sets us free, brings us into freedom and keeps us in freedom. But, unfortunately, tooth decay and truth decay have the same destructive results. So don’t let the truth decay in our culture take away your white, glistening truth of freedom.