For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 (NRSV)
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another. Galatians 5: 13-26 (NRSV)
When Raymond Johnson, from Oklahoma, was young, he had a dog named Ollie. He was tiny but intelligent. When Raymond rattled keys in his hand, Ollie would spring to his feet and grab his leash with his mouth. Once they were outside, Ollie would stay close to Raymond as long as his leash remained in his mouth. When Raymond took the leash from him, he knew he was free to run to his heart's content.
Some people are physically free, yet remain imprisoned by guilt, self=-hatred, or financial obligations. Raymond is currently imprisoned on death row because of mistakes he made when he was a prisoner to gangs, money, and drugs. But the apostle Paul tells us that "it is for freedom that Christ has set us free." Christ offers Raymond a freedom that releases him spiritually from his cold, damp, prison cell to live as a follower of His way.
When those in a prison are released, they receive "discharge papers" to let everyone know they are now free. Christ offers us all discharge papers. If we ask Jesus into our hearts, we receive the spiritual and mental freedom that comes only through him. Raymond may never know physical freedom, but he has found joy, peace, love, and a strong faith community. Christ can rattle the keys that signal real freedom for those who walk with him.
Prayer; Dear God, as we rejoice in the freedom that you provide, help us also to comfort those who are imprisoned by the heavy burdens of life, in Jesus' name, amen.