“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
When it comes down to it, we’re all slaves. And by that, I mean that we all live in service of a master. That master may be money, or pleasure, or good food. Or maybe we serve our family, our school, or our church. Regardless, we live as slaves, in constant submission to something.
What, then, does Paul mean when he tells us to be free?
Some people might think that freedom is the ability to do whatever you want. Paul, however, refers to this as just another form of slavery: slavery to sin (Ro. 6:20). The destructive desires that we have can rule over us and hold us in bondage. It’s foolish and dangerous to think of freedom in this way, for we can be deceived into thinking that we’re free, when we are really destroying ourselves.
On the contrary, when God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, he didn’t give them free rein over the whole earth. “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness” (Ex. 7:16)—God’s reason for freeing the Israelites from slavery to the Egyptians was for them to serve him, and for him to be their new master. He eventually gives them laws and commands to follow, prescriptions for how to build their society. Their allegiance cannot be given to another: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5). Yahweh is their master now.
It is the same way for us. We can be slaves to many masters who treat us poorly, whether that’s stress, lust, people-pleasing, or any of the other innumerable things we can serve here on earth. These are idols. But Christ frees us from them by becoming our master in their place. Through him, we no longer need be destroyed by our submission to unworthy masters. He calls us thus:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Through his death and resurrection, he breaks the chains that bind us. He allows us to become like him in obedience to the Father, and to love one another as we were created to. In submission to him, we find freedom. And in freedom, we find new life. Praise God for freeing us from our corrupt masters just as he freed Israel from Egypt!