It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Galatians 5:1
In Texas, where I grew up, there were festive parades and picnics in Black communities every June 19. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I learned the heartbreaking significance of Juneteenth (a word combining “June” and “nineteenth”) celebrations. Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas learned that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation giving them their freedom—two-and-a-half years earlier. Enslaved people in Texas kept living in slavery because they didn’t know they’d been freed.
It’s possible to be free and yet live as slaves. In Galatians, Paul wrote about another kind of slavery: living life under the crushing demands of religious rules. In this pivotal verse, Paul encouraged his readers that “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). Believers in Jesus had been set free from external regulations, including what to eat and who to befriend. Many, however, still lived as if they were enslaved.
Unfortunately, we can do the same thing today. But the reality is that Jesus set us free from living in fear of man-made religious standards the moment we trusted in Him. Freedom has been proclaimed. Let’s live it out in His power.
How have you been trapped by religious rules? How have you experienced freedom in Christ?
Jesus, thank You for setting me free from the burden of oppressive rules.
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The book of Galatians addresses one of the toughest issues the early communities of believers in Jesus faced: how to understand and relate to the requirements of Mosaic law, especially for gentile believers. Should gentile believers be required to be circumcised and to follow other aspects of Mosaic law? Some were teaching this very thing. Paul’s encounter with the risen Jesus, however, convinced him that the law should be interpreted differently—as leading to and finding fulfillment in Christ (Galatians 2:19–21). To require believers to follow the law when Christ had already made them right with God and won their freedom (5:1, 4–6) would be “a different gospel . . . no gospel at all” (1:6–7).