This past February, Jennifer Sey, the global brand president of Levi’s, quit her job and refused to accept a million-dollar severance package. “More than 20 years ago I joined Levi’s,” Sey explained in a Twitter post. “I quit so I could be free.” For Sey, freedom meant speaking out on issues that were important to her without having the approval of her employer.
Sey’s decision illustrates a common assumption about freedom. Most of us think of freedom as the liberty to do as we please. Today’s passage describes another dimension of freedom. It is the liberty not to do something that we might otherwise do. The freedom to which Paul refers to in verse 13 is freedom from the Law, something he describes as “a yoke of slavery” in verse 1. Although Christ has freed the believer from the bondage of the Law, that does not mean we are free to do anything. This freedom is not an excuse to “indulge the flesh” (v. 13). Flesh in this verse does not refer to the skin that covers our bodies, but the part of our nature that is opposed to God. The natural inclination of our flesh and the presence of God often result in an internal conflict (v. 17).
The freedom Paul celebrates in today’s passage is the ability to choose the way of the Spirit. In essence, this freedom says “no” to the flesh’s impulses and says “yes” to God. The difference between these two ways are described in verses 19–26. It shouldn’t surprise us that the way of the flesh looks like the lifestyle of someone who doesn’t care what God thinks. The alternative is a life marked by the two great commandments Jesus identified (Matt. 22:34–40).
>> How do we live a life marked by true freedom? Paul says the secret is to live in God’s power. Day by day, our goal is to “keep in step with the Spirit” (v. 25).
Father, cause our steps to fall in line with Yours. You have given us the power to flee temptation, to resist the dictates of sin and choose what is right. Give us hearts that crave holiness, turning always to You to guide our actions.