Freedom on Juneteenth

146 years ago today, in Galveston Texas, the call for Slaves to be given freedom was REPEATED. Many States were not observing any recognition of Lincoln’s emancipation given 3 years earlier. The stubborn pride and fear of many white people would not act on the courage of Lincoln to publically express freedom towards their slaves. Freedom came at a price they were not willing to pay, but over time, sacrifices paid off. Patience is such a priceless virtue, and love for our fellow man is even greater than freedom.

In the Old Testament, freedom is most commonly understood in the Exodus, where God rescues, or frees, his people from slavery in Egypt. In Judaism, this episode of freedom is considered the central narrative of faith-a story where God demonstrates his faithfulness to his promise to his people as he sets them free and calls them to set others free. Essentially, Israel is to be for the world, the very gift God is for them. But since Israel does not always embrace their calling, God sends prophets to them in an attempt to correct their course. The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah are two who get pretty riled up about Israel’s lack of purpose and power to do what is right (read Isaiah 61-65 and Jeremiah 34 for a taste). This is actually a loss of freedom, because their sin, enslaves them to a spiritual Egypt, which binds them from doing what is right.

Hundreds of years after Isaiah and Jeremiah, another prophet appears on the scene, one who a group of Jews considers to be the promised Messiah. His name is one that means “God saves” and in his own description of the purpose for his coming, Jesus says he was sent by God “to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, and to let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4:18). Freedom is at the heart of Jesus’ ministry and if we read the Gospel accounts of his activities while on earth, we find that he did indeed free people from captivity and slavery in a myriad of ways. In this way, Jesus can be seen as ushering in a new Exodus. If anything, Jesus demonstrates that God is a God who loves to set people free.

The Scriptures have much more to say about freedom, particularly in the letters of Paul and Peter. Does living a life of freedom necessarily entail that someone has been enslaved?, If we consider ourselves to be people of freedom, from what have we been freed?

Freedom is not the right to do as one pleases, but the power and capacity both to will and to do as one ought. True freedom is never freedom from responsibility, but responsibility not only for choice, but right choices. Freedom is an inner contentment with who we are in Christ and with what we have. It means we have the ability to covet only heavenly treasure. It means the willingness and ability to allow God to be in control of your life. It means single-mindedness which turns the control of one’s life over to Christ which in turn frees us psychologically to follow the Lord. It means the liberty for self-responsibility to both God and man under the grace of God.

A train is a good illustration because it is only effective when it is on the tracks for which it was designed. Tracks don’t inhibit a train, but enable it to run freely as long as it is running under the power of the steam or fuel of its engines.

Understand that freedom is particularly concerned with human relationships which flow from a right relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. This is a key point throughout the fifth chapter of Galatians. Five times the apostle uses “one another” in relation to our freedom—once in verse 13, twice in verse 15, and twice in verse 26. Central to each reference is the presence & power of the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 2 :19. promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved

Galatians 5:1. It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
13. For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

1 Peter 2 :16. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.

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