Afraid of Freedom

By Scott Keith


Freedom is an elusive idea. For that matter, freedom is an even more elusive reality. I often feel as though I have been searching my entire life for some semblance of this idea that we call freedom. I was told, when younger that I lived in the home of the free and the land of the brave, and I believed it. This belief sent me on a search for freedom. This search has often led me into some precarious situations. When I was 19, while in search of the freedom of the hills, I managed to ascend the mountaineer’s route of Mt. Whitney in the winter without the necessary gear; we had no crampons and only one ice axe between the two of us. I almost died twice on this fruitless search for freedom. I’ve always had difficulty working for other people feeling that their management was an infringement on my freedom. As a result, at one point I owned my own business in an attempt to be free from outside management and finally be truly free. That, in the end, turned out badly. So why is freedom so desired and so hard to attain?


During my recent attempt to find some semblance of freedom, my wife and I were reading together My First Summer in the Sierra, by John Muir while we were camping in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. In this work, Muir describes his first extended stay in the Sierra Nevada Mountains while he was hired to assist shepherds move a flock of sheep from the Central Valley of California to the High Sierras. Muir describes how interesting sheep are in that they are constantly trying to escape the flock and be free and then once having attained some freedom; never know quite what to do. After spending all night searching for a group of sheep that had escaped the confines of their enclosure, Muir finally stumbled upon the wayward bunch taking shelter together in the crick of a rock face. Says Muir:

“We came upon them, huddled in a timid, silent bunch. They had evidently been there all night and all forenoon, afraid to go out and feed. Having escaped restraint, they were, like some people we know of, afraid of their freedom, did not know what to do with it, and seemed glad to be back in their familiar bondage.”

This story reminded me of me. My elusive search for freedom has often made me scared and, as a result, I seem happy to return to my former perceived bondage, afraid to go out and feed. Further, I think this is our typical response. We believe we want to be free, but we desire only bondage. No matter how much of a rebel or maverick I think I am, I really am no different than anyone else, or the sheep. Bondage is not so elusive and is so normal that we often perceive it as comfort. We are bound to our jobs and our bills and mortgages. I often feel bound to this blog. Sometimes we may even feel bound to the gifts that our Lord has given us in our families and the church. Finally, we bind ourselves to the Law even though we are free in Christ.


Freedom is not as elusive as it initially seems, but it is impossible to attain if we attempt to find it ourselves. Paul realizes this and shares that reality with us in Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” I am like those sheep that Muir was watching and so are you, and Paul knows it and warns against doing what sheep do, submitting again to the yoke of slavery. While we feel bound to all of our earthly cares, it is our bondage to the Law with its impossible sense of constant obligation, which constantly presses down upon us, and it is from that bondage that we are set free.

Freedom comes when Christ saves! And Christ saves sinners like you and me! Christ has won for us freedom from sin, death, the evil one, and the yoke of the Law. In Christ, you are free. This freedom is so broad reaching that it extends now into your day-to-day life. You are not bound to go to work; you are free to fulfill your calling. I am not bound to this blog; I am free to share the Gospel in it. You are not bound to the righteous requirements of the Law, Christ, as the end of the Law, has freed you from it and in that freedom promises you a new life of freedom.

Seizing this new life does not equate to rebelling in order to be free, but being free to be who we have been called to be in Christ and refusing to return to our previous bondage. Now go be free in Christ!