Cherish Your Freedom
Freedom is precious, but there is freedom that is even more to be desired than freedom from political oppression. Do you enjoy such freedom?
NUMEROUS wars and revolutions have been fought within just the present generation to obtain freedom from undue restrictions of oppressive governments. It is understandable that people should cherish their freedom and that they would not want to live in a police state where their every move is watched. But despite the desirability of freedom from political oppression, there is an even more important freedom that one should be interested in obtaining.
This was well illustrated in the first century of our Common Era when the promised Messiah Jesus Christ came to deliver the Jewish nation from bondage. The Jews were in subjection to the Sixth World Power, Rome, and they felt that the laws of this governing power were unduly restrictive—the heavy taxation measures being especially distasteful. They longed to be freed from this yoke of political bondage to Rome. They wanted their own king to rule over them, as he once did in the days prior to the overthrow of the Judean kingdom in 607 B.C.E. How they looked forward to the coming of the Messiah to bring them relief!
But when Jesus came the Jews were disappointed, even to the point of rejecting him. Why was this? It was because Jesus did not lead a movement to release them from the yoke of political bondage to Rome. The Jews were so concerned with obtaining political freedom that they overlooked the far more important religious freedom that Jesus brought them. Jesus opened up the prison doors, as it were, but the majority of the people preferred to stay inside.
‘STAND FAST IN FREEDOM’
Even after some had been released from the religious restraints that bound them, they desired to return to that from which they had been freed. Failing to appreciate their newly received freedom, they felt more comfortable under the restraining confinements of the Mosaic law. This was the problem of many Christians in the Roman province of Galatia. So the apostle Paul, who had first brought them the liberating message of Christ, wrote a heartfelt letter to the Galatians, urging them: “Stand fast, and do not let yourselves be confined again in a yoke of slavery.”—Gal. 5:1.
Almighty God had given his nation of Israel a very exacting set of more than six hundred laws for the purpose of preserving them morally clean, and to lead them to the Christ when he arrived. But the Galatians, who had been freed from the obligations to this Law by their acceptance of Christ, were again subjecting themselves to its freedom-restricting decrees. So the apostle Paul explained to them that “all those who depend upon works of law are under a curse,” but that “Christ by purchase released us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse instead of us.”—Gal. 3:10-24.
Yes, the Mosaic law showed up humans as accursed sinners, for no matter how hard one tried, he could not maintain consistent obedience to all of its requirements, nor was there an end to the sacrifices for sin that it required. (Gal. 3:10; Deut. 27:26) Mankind therefore needed a savior to deliver them from the sin and death to which this Law condemned them. So “when the full limit of the time arrived,” Paul explained, “God sent forth his Son, . . . that he might release by purchase those under law, that we, in turn, might receive the adoption as sons. So, then, you are no longer a slave but a son; and if a son, also an heir through God.”—Gal. 4:4, 5, 7.
How glad the Galatians should have been for this freedom! By accepting the benefits of Christ’s ransom and receiving God’s spirit, they no longer were slaves to the Mosaic law, but now became righteous sons of God in line for everlasting life. Why, then, should anyone want to go into slavery again? Paul asked them: “How is it that you are turning back again to the weak and beggarly elementary things [pertaining to the Mosaic law] and want to slave for them over again? You are scrupulously observing days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that somehow I have toiled to no purpose respecting you.”—Gal. 4:9-11.
Some years earlier Paul had spent much time witnessing to the peoples in the Roman province of Galatia about the freedom effected by Jesus’ sacrifice. In one of their synagogues he had explained that through Jesus “a forgiveness of sins is being published to you; and that from all the things from which you could not be declared guiltless by means of the law of Moses, everyone who believes is declared guiltless by means of this One.” The Galatians accepted this message. Those among them who had been scrupulously observing sabbath days, abstaining from certain foods and keeping other Law requirements were evidently happy to be free from these restrictions. But now they were being enslaved again, and Paul feared for them.—Acts 13:38, 39.
“Tell me,” he wrote, “you who want to be under law, Do you not hear the Law?” Paul then drew an illustration from the Bible account concerning Abraham’s servant girl Hagar and his beloved wife Sarah. Hagar represented the law covenant, “which brings forth children for slavery,” Paul said, while Sarah stood for God’s covenant with Abraham, in keeping with which he would produce the promised Seed, Jesus Christ, along with thousands of other spiritual children. So Paul explained that the time had arrived to “drive out the servant girl and her son,” since the law covenant represented by her had served its purpose and was no longer necessary.—Gal. 4:21-31; Gen. 21:1-21; 15:5; 22:16-18.
That law covenant exposed its children as sinners, and it contained no provision for lastingly removing their sinfulness. How happy the Galatians should be that it was set aside by God, and they were free from it! “For such freedom Christ set us free,” Paul proclaimed. They should cherish this freedom. “Therefore stand fast,” he urged, “and do not let yourselves be confined again in a yoke of slavery.”—Gal. 5:1.
CHERISHING FREEDOM TODAY
Even today there is a danger of coming into bondage to religious restrictions from which one has been freed by the sacrifice of Christ. The many Jews who do not accept Jesus as the Messiah still feel obligated to observe the various features of the Mosaic law. They keep scores of dietary laws, observe feast days, as well as the different sabbaths. Even until now they do not accept the freedom granted by Christ.—Rom. 6:14; 10:4; Eph. 2:14-16; Col. 2:20-22.
But many persons in Christendom are also bound by traditions that Christ in no way obligated them to keep. Some religions, for instance, still require the observance of the Jewish weekly sabbath. Yet at no time did Christ indicate that this law was to continue to apply to his followers. In fact, the apostle Paul said that he was in fear because the Galatians had fallen back to “observing days and months and seasons and years.” Christ effected a release from such sabbath-day requirements.—Gal. 4:10; Col. 2:13-17.
Another Mosaic Law requirement that is still enforced upon many parishioners is to give a tenth of their income to the church. However, since Christians are no longer bound by the Law, they are free to contribute according to their means. They are not restricted to giving just 10 percent, neither are they obligated to give that much.—Num. 18:21, 24-26; 2 Cor. 9:7.
In addition, Christendom has added many seasonal celebrations as a burden upon their peoples that are nowhere authorized in the Scriptures. There are Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, Lent and Easter, to name just a few. At Christmastime many feel forced to go into debt in order to send cards and give presents to numerous acquaintances. Then, every Easter, millions are made to feel obligated to purchase a new outfit of clothes so as to appear stylish before their neighbors. How happy one can be that the teachings of Christ provide freedom from such unchristian celebrations!
Christians can also be glad for freedom from numerous restrictions that various religious organizations place upon their peoples. As an example, some prohibit the people from eating meat on particular days and their priests from getting married. Besides restricting one’s freedom, these laws are expressly warned against by the Christian apostle Paul. In his letter to Timothy he said that “some will fall away from the faith, . . . forbidding to marry, commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be partaken of with thanksgiving.”—1 Tim. 4:1-4.
PROPER USE OF FREEDOM
Now, just because Christ provided a release from Mosaic Law obligations, as well as from any other similar restrictive prohibitions, that does not mean that Christians are free to engage in wrongdoing. “You were, of course, called for freedom,” Paul wrote the Galatians; only do not use this freedom as an inducement for the flesh,” or, as Peter said, “as a blind for moral badness.” But, to the contrary, “through love slave for one another. For the entire Law stands fulfilled in one saying, namely: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’”—Gal. 5:13, 14; 1 Pet. 2:16.
If Christians are motivated by God’s spirit, which is holy, they “will carry out no fleshly desire at all.” “Fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, hatreds, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these” will be alien to them. The apostle Paul emphasized that Christians are not free to practice such unloving things.—Gal. 5:16-21.
But in keeping with Christ’s example Christians will imbibe God’s spirit, the fruitage of which is “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” Christians cherish their freedom to practice these things, free from any unscriptural restrictions.—Gal. 5:22-24.