It’s a simple principle, right? This month, as we celebrate Independence Day, we feast on freedom, telling ourselves that being without a master is the only way to live.
But is that really freedom? Not according to Paul. The Message version of Romans 6 quotes Paul as saying,
“Since we’re free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom.”
Eugene Peterson makes a distinction here between freedom and “so-called freedom.” Why? Because the idea that we can be free from any and all restraint is an illusion. When our forefathers won the Revolutionary War, they weren’t signing up for anarchy and lawlessness—they were choosing to submit to a new rule. But notice: there was still rule. We still pay taxes, they just now benefit our own people instead of Britain’s. We still follow laws, they are just ones that we vote into existence. And we still have rulers, they just live a lot closer (at least geographically). Our allegiance to a greater cause didn’t disappear, it just became realigned behind the vision of the stars and stripes. Yet even Christians in America have bought into “so-called freedom,” the conviction that living the dream means truly being masters of our own destinies.
So-called freedom is The Great Illusion. Because when we walk down that road long enough, we eventually find ourselves enslaved once again, but this time to our own desires and whims. And those chains turn out to be every bit as oppressive as the ones that previously bound us to sin. In Romans Paul had the perfect opportunity to sell us on independence—on rugged, I-don’t-need-nobody autonomy. Instead, he suggested transferring our allegiance to a new Master.
True freedom is being enslaved to righteousness.
Think about Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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.”
Sweet! I love the part where Jesus says that if we come to Him, He will remove the yoke. No more yokes—FREEDOM!!! All chains and yokes are gone, never to be imposed again on His beautiful, spotless Bri—
Wait, that’s not what it says. It says that when we come to Him, weary and burdened, He gives us HIS yoke. Huh? How very un-American.
The thing is, this is what Jesus offers us. What He offers us, is a yoke. A yoke is an instrument of work, something put on two animals for the purpose of setting a reasonable, sustainable pace…for toil. And yet He says that being yoked to Him gives us rest. He says, come near and be slave to righteousness, let go of The Great Illusion of “so-called freedom,” and we will find rest. Peace. Freedom.
True freedom is being enslaved to Him.
Because always, in the midst of toil and rest, joy and sorrow, pain and happiness, our beloved Savior is walking right beside us, setting the pace and giving us the greatest blessing we could ever hope for: His Presence.
So this July, enjoy freedom—not as the world promises (and can never deliver), but as Jesus freely and joyfully gives. Let’s take His yoke upon us and learn from Him, and there we will find rest for our souls. Happy Independence.