Our fight for freedom

By Erica Fehr

Before we’ve even learned to walk, we humans begin fighting for freedom; first, in play but then more seriously as we object to authority, consequences, expectations, guilt, pain, doubt, anxiety, and death—the freedom wish list is very long.

But finding freedom is not simple. Restrictions often act as prison guards at opposite ends of our cell. We want to be free of obligations but if we don’t fulfil them, we’re weighted down by guilt. We want to be free of authority and rules and find ourselves paying penalties or facing retribution. Some freedoms we fight for have zero possibility of success, but that doesn’t stop us from trying.

Here we are, between the resurrection and Pentecost. The power of death and sin defeated by Jesus—grace and freedom the new reality as we’re filled with the Holy Spirit.

Grace and freedom are a big deal to Paul. He pulls no punches when the Galatians give up freedom in the Holy Spirit for a return to the law. “Who has bewitched you?” he says in chapter 3 (v. 1). “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). Of course, this freedom doesn’t mean being able to act however they want, he reminds them (5:13ff).

But why, when we are so desperate for freedom, and we receive it in the Holy Spirit, do we need to be told to stand firm and not let ourselves be burdened again by slavery? Is it because law feels safer and understandable? Because trusting in the Holy Spirit for our righteousness is too slow, or it’s too hard to figure out if we’re making any progress? Maybe freedom just seems too…free.

In the case of the Galatians, Paul places the blame on people in their midst who are throwing them into confusion and trying to pervert the gospel of Christ: “Agitators” who have “cut in on them.” But he doesn’t let the Galatians off the hook. They need to take responsibility for holding on to the gospel they received and not trade it back in for slavery to the law.

Whatever or whoever it is, trying to lure us or frighten us back into slavery, Paul insists we hold on to the freedom in Christ. Hold on to the gospel that saved us and stay in step with the Spirit, loving our neighbour as ourselves.

Erica Fehr

In this issue of The Messenger the writers focus on themes of resurrection and Pentecost: preventing shame from keeping us enslaved by Ken Shigamatsu (p. 14), and again by Jesse Penner who reports on the SBC leadership conference at which Shigamatsu spoke; trusting God when obstacles are insurmountable by Andrew Dyck, p. 6, and loving wary neighbours by Heidi (surname withheld), p. 10 who lives and works in Spain.

Read Kevin Wiebe’s column too and have fun again. Read Karla Hein’s column and have wonder again. Read Layton Friesen’s last column as Conference Pastor—right to his surprising ending, and have…well, that would be a spoiler.

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