I have been back in the US for about six months now, and I have been surprised to detect a distinct lack of freedom. I am not talking about rights violations or a heavy-handed government. I am referring to a stunning sense of slavery in many Christians with whom I talk.
When I tell them we are taking a year to stop and seek God, I invariably get a response something like: “Must be nice. It would be impossible for me…” or “ Wish I could do that, but I could never…” or “Sure, I’d love a year off. Like that’d ever happen!”
And as I hear this theme repeated again and again, I realize that many people feel trapped. They feel demoralized, enslaved and out of control.
And so, in the spirit of this independence holiday, here’s what I’d like to say to them.
1. You are free.
Deuteronomy 5:15 says, “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day.”
When we become Christians we are set free from so many things. From sin, from death, from the laws of this fallen world. We are not slaves of anything, including our circumstances, our finances, our schedules, or our jobs. The book Sabbath Keeping says it like this:
“To keep sabbath is to exercise one’s freedom, to declare oneself to be neither a tool to be employed—an employee—nor a beast to be burdened.” (pg. 43)
I hear the objections starting already. “But we have to be responsible. Hold down a job. Pay bills.” Of course. God not only commands us to work, He is honored when we are productive. But neither money nor work is to become our master.
Remember, God brought the Israelites out of slavery “by a mighty hand.” He is strong enough to provide for our needs when we make seeking Him and His kingdom our top priority. In fact, He promises to do so.
2. You are not a citizen of this world.
As I observe what keeps people oppressed and harried, I see that many are racing to live up to the expectations of the world around them. These cultural norms and demands are so second nature—they have been taught to us from birth and permeate even our church culture—that many of us never question them.
But as Christians we need not live by these rules. As citizens of the kingdom of God we are free to march to another drum, to seek another way of life. In fact, we are obligated to do so.
Colossians warns: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” (2:8)
We must stop and re-think the way we live in light of what the Bible teaches. Why is it necessary to achieve that? Who says I need to have this to be happy? To be socially acceptable? To be secure? Where does my definition of success come from? And if we find that the “traditions of men” run contrary to the values of Christ—whether in our secular or sacred cultures—we must have the courage to rebel. To claim our heavenly citizenship and refuse to live under the laws of a land which is not our true home.
I know this is revolutionary talk. It is inflammatory and subversive. But as those who—being slaves of Christ—are truly free , we must never bow to any law or master other than Him.