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Are you free?

I’m not asking what country you live in or where you are celebrating the day that America’s Declaration of Independence was signed.  I’m asking if you are free.

There are still many types of physical slavery in this world today.  David and I just finished our tax returns and felt quite close to slaves of our government.  There are young girls being trafficked around the world…sold as slaves.  There are systems set up within our country and others that seem to make people slaves…banking, the stock market, politics, the stability of the dollar…if you don’t think that we are all slaves to one system or another, you have your eyes shut pretty tight these days.  Racism and its divisiveness makes us all slaves to our own color…shamed for something we cannot change.  Sometimes employment can feel like slavery.  Too often in the corporate world, I see companies getting fat and happy off of the laborers…taking far too much advantage of their skill and dependence on a pay check.

The truth of the matter is that slavery will always exist in this world.  It is the bent of humans to be greedy…to fall into the trap of hunger for power…to think too much of themselves and too less of others.  As quickly as we free slaves in one arena, they are made in the next.  It is a never ending cycle because we live in an imperfect world…one that we ourselves cannot perfect.

I don’t say that to bring despair.  I don’t say it lightly.  I don’t say it because I don’t want to end it.  I just say it with eyes wide open.  I say it having spent time in a communist country and raising children who were born there. I say it having friendships that have enlightened me to the horrors of growing up a slave of parents who thought bondage was the way to raise children.  I say it knowing people who have walked into the darkness and come out burdened with the knowledge that they cannot change it all…that the world is filled with slavery and the need for freedom is overwhelming.

In this world, there will always be slavery…if not physically than mentally for certain.  How many come to mind who are slaves to the next drink?  Who do you know who lives constantly in insecurity?  In what circle of influence is there not plenty of people whose focus is completely self centered?

Again, I ask you… Are you free?

And you know if you are free because the bondage of slavery runs deep.  It’s chains are felt often.  It makes itself known in the fear and dismay that pummel at every turn.  It is obvious in the feelings of shame and regret that just won’t go away no matter what you try.  It pipes up in the dark of night and makes itself known…”I’ve got you.”  It is evident in lives that refuse to sit quietly for fear that they will have to admit they are prisoners.

Yes, you know if you are free.

And if you are free, you know that there exists only ONE way to freedom.  Indeed, we could end slavery tomorrow in a million different ways and have just as many slaves roaming the earth.

This freedom is not found in a country.

It isn’t found in a religion.

It isn’t found in a cause.

It isn’t found in a pill.

It isn’t found in any psychotherapy or meditation.

“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:27-29

Being clothed with Christ is the only way to freedom.  Not only is it the only way to true freedom, but it trumps all other forms of freedom.  When you are in Christ, you can still be a physical slave and yet be free.  In Christ, the deepest parts of you find independence.

How is this possible?  Because the Kingdom of God is outside of this world’s domain.  When we identify ourselves with Christ…when we let that overtake every other identity in us…we are able to live life outside of this world’s system and according to God’s.  We are no longer subject to what the world determines is important.  When we let Christ determine our focus and our priorities, we are able to let go of all the impossible worldly expectations that keep us in slavery and instead live for the very One who created freedom.

Why don’t more people live free in Christ?  Because they choose to instead remain subject to the systems of this world.  They first identify as Baptist or American or black or rich or Democrat or slave.  They allow their inner being, their thought life, their influences, their belief systems, their direction to be shaped by this world and they try to sprinkle the Word in the gaps…or even defend their slavery with the Word.  They proudly wave their binding cords high, wear a chip on their shoulder, and dare anyone to disagree.

Patriotism is a good thing.  It is good to be thankful for our country and for the people who sacrifice for it.  It is good to celebrate it’s victories and mourn it’s defeats.  It is good to seek to guide it onto a successful path and pray for its healing and welfare.  But devotion to Christ must still outweigh devotion to country. They are not one and the same. Even when your country is free.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  Galatians 5:1

When Christ sets you free, He does it so that you are no longer held captive by this world’s way of doing things.  You are no longer under the structure that this world has set up…the structure that will not be made right until our God makes a new earth.  When Christ sets you free, He does it so that He becomes your freedom. You are first and foremost identified as a Christ follower…and if that means you have to let go of all your other pet identities or alignments, you are willing because you know that only Christ sets free.

In Christ, a prostitute can become a beloved wife and mother.  In Christ, an overtaxed income can be multiplied to cover as many expenses as it needs to.  In Christ, a life long pro-choice advocate can become a saving grace for young mothers in crisis.  In Christ, a community can be unified with black and white, white collar and blue collar.  In Christ, those who have been delivered from forced slavery can forgive and move forward in the purpose God has for them.  In Christ, an overworked employee can find the strength to shine light in the workplace despite unfair conditions.  In Christ, a person who once hated can now love.

Truly, in Christ, men and women have done great things…not just in affecting change in the world, but also in covering themselves with Him in their current daily conditions.  This because they made Christ and His Word the foundation of every other allegiance in their life.  They allowed Him to shape the way that they thought and felt about the world around them, and they found incomprehensible freedom in remaining ultimately in Christ.

Independence?  Until Christ holds the core of our identity, it won’t truly belong to us.