Freedom

freedomsmI am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…. – Deuteronomy 5:6

It’s curious, though probably not coincidental, that the Ten Commandments were given to the Israelites at two different times in their wilderness wandering. The first time was shortly after they fled their 400 years of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 20). The second time was shortly before they ended their 40 years of wandering, just before they crossed the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land. One of the things I think the story is trying to communicate is that these commandments are about freedom. They are guidelines for transforming slaves into new, free people. Or, as author Brian McLaren puts it, “Through the ten plagues, we might say, God got the people out of slavery. Through the ten commands, God got the slavery out of the people.” [1]

Funny. We don’t tend to think about law as a pathway to freedom. The law is constraining. The law limits. I want to drive 85 mph down 35W but “the law” will only let me go 55. The law sometimes feels like bondage to us. But I think that’s because we misunderstand freedom. Real freedom isn’t being able to do anything we want, anytime we want. That’s just bondage with a different set of chains. While it may seem paradoxical, real freedom exists within healthy limits. If you’ve even seen a child raised without boundaries you know what I mean!

I say all this to make two points. First, we worship a God who seeks to lead us to freedom. Perhaps that seems obvious to you, but listen carefully to the way people talk about God (and maybe even the way you think about God) and you’ll be surprised by how often God sounds like another Pharaoh, a cosmic slave master. Second, the Ten Commandments are a great gift because we are all trying to escape one form of bondage or another: fear, anger, greed, control, drugs, alcohol, food, worry, guilt and shame, to name just a few. If you can identify with one of those slave masters in your own life, consider how trusting God above all else (the First Commandment) might lead you to greater freedom. But while the law is about freedom, at the end of the day the law will never really set us free. Only the Spirit of God can do that, as Paul once wrote, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (1 Corinthians 3:17)

From what bondage are you seeking freedom? How do the Ten Commandments speak into your journey from bondage to freedom? How has the Spirit of the Lord set you free?

Want to start your day with a smile? Check out my favorite video clip of the fifteen, I mean ten, commandments https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I48hr8HhDv0

Jeff Marian is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

[1] McLaren, Brian D. (2014-06-10). We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation (p. 43). FaithWords.

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