"Jesus" was the quick response of most Christians. "Religion" topped the list for others. I then asked for another word, and then another, and then another. Can you guess what word never came up (not even once)?
That's more than a little tragic since the apostle Paul rather audaciously declares in Galatians 5:1 that “for freedom Christ has set us free.” In other words, at one point we were not free, Jesus set us free, and the reason He set us free was so that we would actually be free. If this is true, why don’t we talk about it more? Our culture loves to talk about freedom but those of us who follow Jesus are eerily silent on the issue. It's not just our words either, our very lives betray that we don’t feel free, not in the slightest. Sinful urges dog us every day, our churches and preachers (often unknowingly) shame and guilt us into a standard of living that seems unreachable, and just mention prayer to most of us and we feel the chains of guilt shackle around our consciences.
If Jesus has set us free, why don’t we feel free?
Maybe we don’t know what freedom truly is or maybe (just maybe) deep down inside we are afraid to be free. But if Jesus set us free and if He really wants us to be free then freedom is not only possible but it is central to a Christian’s life and experience.
So what's a chain-bound person to do?
We look to the man with the bolt-cutters in his hand! You know what He says? "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).
Why is Jesus' yoke easy? Why is the burden He places on His people so light? Because He takes all of the weight onto His broad shoulders! (Let me talk about yokes real quick.) The purpose of a yoke is to attach a weak animal to a strong animal so that together, they can plow a straight line. Imagine the joy and freedom of a wimpy little ox plowing a beautiful and perfectly straight line for the first time in his life! He feels strong and useful and accomplished! But he's really not doing anything at all. The much much stronger ox at his side is doing all the hard work while he playfully bounds alongside. For the wimpy ox, the work is easy.
True freedom starts with the knowledge that we can never make it from point "A" to point "B" alone. Instead of looking to our puny little selves to try and muster up the strength to go on, we glance to our side and see Jesus the Ox and marvel at His steely determination to get us to the end of the line. When we look to Jesus, maybe then "freedom" will become one of our favorite words to describe our faith.
Listen to Noel Jesse Heikkinen's interview on SBE here.