What if the laws and traditions we grew up observing were no longer required?
What if our cultural sacred cows were no longer sacred?
How would we respond?
Well, I suppose if they were burdensome rituals, their end might come as a relief. But, if it’s a beloved tradition we’re losing, then surely we’d be mourning its loss. After all, seeds planted during childhood grow deep roots over a lifetime. And while we might be saying “Yes!” to liberty on the surface, buried parts can remain sentimentally wrapped around the old ways.
With either response, I’m reminded of Paul’s letter to the Roman church and the adjustments that had to be made after Jesus fulfilled the Law. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4). Former practices like sacrificial offerings had come to an end, food restrictions were lifted, and regulations were eased. But, all of that led to conflicts over where new boundary lines were drawn.
We all desire freedom and welcome it when it comes, but freedom we’re not used to can also be overwhelming. Suddenly, we’re accountable for more than we were before, adding to an already heavy load of responsibilities. Under its weight, exchanging a portion of freedom for the relief of another law or new “king” can have its appeal. We acquiesce, and history repeats itself. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. (1 Samuel 8:7).
And yet, For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1).
This, of course, is contrary to everything I grew up believing. From my perspective, Christianity was a strict system of “Shalt’s and Shalt Not’s” that only stifled individuality. It’s the sort of thing that strikes creative types like me as antagonistic. How surprising it was to finally understand that not only are we uniquely made but we are meant to delight in our uniqueness! It’s worldly thinking that demands excessive conformity; it’s mankind who piles on laws and tightens boundaries.
In contrast, Jesus expressed in perfect simplicity the single most important command there is:
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31).
This important bit of scripture covers every circumstance and establishes a clear perimeter. Do you honor and worship the one true God? If not, you’ve crossed the line. Do your thoughts and actions reflect God’s love? Are you extending His love and kindness to others? If not, you’re entering dangerous territory.
It is quite simple, really. This Greatest Commandment stands like a protective fence around a wide open pasture. Wolves are kept at bay while we move freely about, exploring God’s wondrous creation! Within this space, we can choose to go left or go right, linger in one area for a while or run toward something further in the distance. So long as our choices are within God’s established principles, then our options are as diverse as we are.
Why do we insist on limiting ourselves in areas that God does not?
Still, the prospect of taking back responsibility for things like education is a scary thought for many. Our lives are hectic enough already and our upbringing has not prepared us for this task. Luckily we have a God and a guidebook that will tell us what to do. Besides, this weight was never supposed to be carried on our own shoulders!
When it comes to burdens, God will both lighten our load and strengthen our resolve to manage the little bit we have. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-29). What we really have to do, then, is check where we’ve placed our trust and make sure we’ve given it to God. He is the one who opens eyes and brings understanding (see A LOT of supporting verses HERE).
Who knows? God may want your child in a school or He may want him at home—that depends entirely on the Lord’s unforeseeable plan for that life. Therefore, we need flexibility and freedom to move according to His plan.
No doubt, the biggest obstacle we’ll face when embracing our freedom in Christ is ourselves and a lifetime of “training up.” Our habits and thoughts have been shaped by a culture that’s become increasingly hostile toward God. For Christian parents, the tug-o-war is two-fold for we must battle the world as well as the baggage we carry with us.
What beliefs and practices, earthly or spiritual, have we accepted simply because they’ve been handed down to us from well-meaning parents?
What are we handing off to our own children that hinders their relationship with God?
These are important questions worth our time and reflection. The answers may surprise you; they might also open the door to a stronger relationship with a timeless God in a modern world.