For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.—For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.—Galatians 5:1
The truth of our salvation in Christ is so rich with meaning. Christ died to make us free. He paid the penalty of our sins, so we are no longer living under the bondage of wrath and our own disposition to sin. Instead, he releases us to live without the weight of sin.
The Galatian Christians were tempted to go back to bondage. They wanted the comforts of the law, not the nuances of grace. They wanted the structure that the law afforded them, not the freedom that grace afforded them. Grace took away their own ability to do anything to save themselves. What they missed is that the law did the very same thing.
People like to talk about Galatians when they talk about salvation and legalism. When we bring up rules, someone might use this very verse (Gal. 5:1) to condemn any new law because we are free people, not slaves. We don’t live under law, we live under grace. Truth be told, I think that can be a little misleading sometimes. A life under grace doesn’t abolish rules. We are saved and free, but that doesn’t remove the need to let that freedom transform us to make us more like the Christ who saved us.
But there is another aspect to this “law giving” that I think flies under the radar, especially among Christian women. It’s the “what is best” language that we use on a whole host of things pertaining to women, particularly mothers. Just consider some of these phrases:
“Breast is best.”
“My education choice is best.”
“Scheduling is best.”
“Co-sleeping is best.”
“Staying home with your children is best.”
“Working outside the home is best.”
“Being married is best.”
Implicit in these phrases is not a new law, per se, but there is a tone of urgency in them. It might not be required to breastfeed your children, but you know it’s best, right? It might not be required to stay home with your children, but you know it’s best, right? Do you hear the law creeping up in those words? We might not feel compelled scripturally to do these things, but our maternal instinct drives us to say “well, why wouldn’t I want to give my child the best?” I mean, who wants to give their child second best? I don’t.
To be clear, I think scripture has some serious things to say about parenting and motherhood. But where it is silent, we should be too. Or at least be more nuanced with our convictions.
And as we walk into another school year, where we will be confronted with our choices yet again—whether around the table as we homeschool or in the carpool line at elementary school—let’s remember the freedom Christ has given us. The guilt or shame you may feel about sending your kids to school might be the Holy Spirit leading you to something else—but it also just might be a pull towards adhering to a new law that Christ never established for you. The guilt or shame you feel about schooling your children at home might be the Holy Spirit prodding you—or it might be owing to seeing another person’s standards and making that your goal. We all have different races to run. We need more cheerleaders on this race course. Satan wants nothing more than to slow us down under the weight of a law that Christ died to fulfill for us.
My concern with how we talk about these things is not in the things themselves, but in the unnecessary burden it places on women who choose something different. When we speak in terms of “best” where scripture doesn’t, we may unknowingly be doing the very thing Paul warns us about in Galatians. Of course, there is comfort in believing that what you are doing is best. And by all means, parents should believe that what they do for their children is best for their child right then. But to make universal statements about it being best for all children for all time misses the incredible complexities that fill so many families and homes. And worse, it heaps unnecessary burden on women who are just trying to honor God and love their families.
So let’s make our language about our choices biblical. And more importantly, let’s love our sisters whatever choices they make knowing that Christ has set us free.