"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1).
Kenny Chesney sings,
through the joy and pain that living brings
don't we all want the same thing
freedom, sweet freedom
it's what the junkie needs that the needle can't give
the depressed and forgotten are praying for it
it's what the brave and courageous are fighting for
an open sail on a distant shore
Religion is a yoke of slavery, fit only for a stupid ox that has to be driven and forced. So is sin. Both enslave and degrade and depress.
Funny thing is, yokes of slavery can feel natural and right and safe. But God says, "Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you" (Psalm 32:9). There is another way to stay near to God. In fact, it's the only way. Jesus died to give it to us. Freedom. It's human. It's dignifying. It's unifying.
Have you ever gone in among a church and you got the impression that the power driving it was coercion -- merely human inventions that you had to submit to, to fit in? Exclusion is powerful. It manipulates people, because we are all insecure and we long to be accepted. Paul saw through it long ago: "They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them" (Galatians 4:17). "Hey newcomer, this church is about us. All this is for us. You're here for us, to make us feel better about ourselves. Get it?"
Jesus came to free us from that. His kingdom is where everyone who bows before him also stands before him. He is what it's all about - -the display of his cross-love, taking our guilt and shame and outsider-ness away, including us, lifting us up, together as one.
You are accepted in Christ by the all-holy God. And if he has lifted away your yoke of slavery, no one has the right to put it back on your neck -- not even you. You are free. Stand firm. Enjoy your freedom before God. Relish it. Prove it. Spread it. And do not submit again to a human yoke of slavery.
And when this life is over, as it soon will be, you will accelerate into a freedom even more wonderful than you've been given now. Total freedom forever. "An open sail on a distant shore." That is your destiny. Let it define you now. And bring someone else there with you.