On Monday I wrote about freedom and offered a pretty weak effort, I think. It’s been a tough few days around here with everyone except me being sick at one time or another (and mostly all at the same time) and I fear that my article on Monday reflected a lack of attention. There is one thing I had wanted to say on Monday that I somehow did not quite communicate. I’m going to take another swing at it today.
We, as sinful human beings, seem naturally inclined to believe that there is greater freedom outside of God’s will than within it. I believe from a plain reading of Scripture that God intends that husbands will lead their families and that wives will submit to their husbands. I believe that this submission is far less humiliating than many in our culture would believe simply by hearing the word. Yet it is submission nonetheless, and submission comes very, very hard to human beings. And the more sinful the leader is, the harder it must be to submit. Every one of us owes submission and allegiance to God, the perfect God, and we can all attest, every day, just how hard that it is and how often we fail. Every time we sin we are telling God that we can live better outside of his will than within it. If we find it hard to submit to God, how much harder is it to submit to husbands or church leaders or Presidents and kings and Prime Ministers?
What we learn as Christians, though, is that there is greater freedom within God’s law, within God’s boundaries, within God’s will, than there is outside. If you are a parent, you know this already. Your children are more free to live a fulfilling, joyful life when they obey you than when they do not. Your child gains no freedom from touching the hot stove after you have told him not to; she gains no liberty by running across the busy parking lot when you have told her to stay put. Such freedom is no freedom at all. It leads only to pain–perhaps immediate and consequential pain or perhaps the pain of punishment later on; perhaps both. Yet every day you and I battle this very thing. We battle the desire to run away from God, to do things our way, to do things in whatever way we determine is best.
I think we sometimes feel as if God has saved us to a lifetime of captivity to his laws. Now that we are Christians there is so much we cannot do. There is so much we must do. Suddenly we see that “wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” We see that “every person [must] be subject to the governing authorities.” We see that our submission to Christ leads to submission to others. We see that our submission to Christ requires us to do so many things that come so slowly and reject many things that come so easily. And we regard this as captivity. We may even resent these high, tough standards that God requires.
But God gives these high standards, he gives us these laws, he gives us these boundaries for our good and for our freedom. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). As we grow in our knowledge of God and as we grow to be more like him, we see that what we thought was freedom was really slavery and what we thought was slavery is in reality glorious freedom. We find our freedom in submitting to God and obeying him, even when such obedience goes against all we want to do and all we want to believe. God knows best and we live best before him when we submit to his ways, whatever the cost.