Chained to Freedom

By Jarrod H. Brown, DDS, DWS
Kaleo Institute Professor

“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” (: 27-29, NASB)

I was hurriedly shopping through Hobby Lobby today trying to get some parts to make a Christmas gift for my mother. (I won’t say what the gift is in case she reads this!) As I was looking down an aisle with certain craft projects, I came to an endcap containing wide leather thong bracelets to which one could choose to add dog-tag shaped “charms.” I decided that this bracelet would make a stylish addition to my concert attire for those rare occasions when I get to be the cool guy on stage singing about Jesus. There were many charms from which to select, many of which were too girly for me to consider (“BFF” and the like). So I settled on a hammered-metal cross cutout and another, also hammered-metal, that reads “FREEDOM.” In my mind, I was considering the freedom that I have as a Christian. Freedom from sin because Jesus died for us all and freedom as an American to worship as I choose.Chains

But when I finally put all the parts together and strapped the leather contraption to my wrist, I couldn’t help but think that the leather/metal combination looked more like a handcuff or first-century chains that a slave might wear. So how does slave wear remind me of my freedom? I almost took the bracelet apart and took it back to the store before I stopped to think: “Jesus was a slave to death that I might obtain my freedom.”

If we look at the Scripture above from Galatians, we realize that we are “clothed…with Christ.” As He was a slave so are we slaves to sin leading us to death. But it is His victory on the cross and in the Resurrection that gains us freedom from that same sin. So how is there neither slave nor free man? Shouldn’t we be one or the other? The truth is, to me, that trusting Jesus is to be both a slave AND a free man. I am a slave to His resurrection, else I have no salvation at all. I am a slave to His word, or else I am not living as I ought. I am a slave to serving my neighbor, else I am ignoring Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” But I am also free to make my own decisions, free to pray, free to enjoy my life and not be trapped in the prison of my own mind because of my sin. Being enslaved to Jesus gives me the freedom that I was created to have. The freedom that Adam and Eve were intended to have before the Fall. The freedom that gives us joy and hope in a dark and desperate world.

So as I wear the bracelet I will celebrate with this symbol of restriction, persecution, and slavery the freedom Jesus died and rose again to give all of us. How will you choose to remember what He has done for you? Or will you exercise your freedom and choose to forget Him and your neighbor. Either way, Jesus died to give you that choice. Choose wisely.
September 29, 2014

Jarrod Brown, DDS, DWS is a graduate of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, with a BS in Biology, Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA, with a Doctorate of Dental Surgery, and The Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies in Orange Park, Florida, with a Doctorate of Worship Studies. While in full-time practice as a general dentist, Dr. Brown also serves as a hospital chaplain in his hometown of Danville, VA. He and his wife, Lisa, are very involved in Fairview United Methodist Church, Danville, where both participate in the music ministry and worship planning committees. Dr. Brown’s favorite areas of worship studies are liturgical design, Baptismal renewal, and creative altar/sanctuary design. He is also the proud father of two sons, Trevor and Nathan.

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3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (ESV)

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