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  • Writer's pictureAllison Wilcox

What does it mean to be free?

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become enslaved to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. ~ Galatians 5:1, 13-25

One of the phrases that you hear most often these days is "my freedom." (or maybe, "my personal freedom.") You'll hear this in relation to guns: I am free to have guns.

You hear it in relation to issues to body autonomy: whether to wear masks, abortion rights, etc.

Always that freedom begins with "me" or "my" or "mine."

But for Paul - and for Jesus - freedom had nothing to do with "me" and everything to do with "us."

It wasn't about mine. It was about ours.

Freedom is not for self-indulgence, says Paul. Honestly, you can't get clearer than that as a contrast to our Western notion of freedom, where the self reigns supreme.

Instead, as Christians, our freedom is found and shown most clearly in our love of neighbor. Because when my neighbor is well - and free - then I am well and free.

What's the quote from Emma Lazarus (who wrote the poem on the Statue of Liberty)?

"Until all of us are free, none of us are free."

When we make our personal freedoms something that is more important than love of our neighbors, we are yoking ourselves to a new master. A new god. A new idol.

When we use our freedoms to love our neighbor, that love expands and grows. We are yoked then to God and to each other to share in a generous and fruitful existence.

Dear God, free me from my idols, so that I may fully, and freely, love my neighbor as myself. Amen

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