Don’t misunderstand me. There’s a way of “walking with heads held high” which reeks of arrogance, or careless indifference.
That’s not what I’m talking about.
No, there’s something else entirely going on in Leviticus 26: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.”
That last bit is fascinating. How does God enable us to walk with heads held high? Because I need that Enabling!
First comes the acknowledgement of God and His sovereign intervention in the story of your life. It refers back to that moment in Exodus 3, when God informs Moses: “I have heard the cry of my people… I have come to rescue them…”
This terrible injustice must be broken. Decisively.
And it is! “I brought you out… so that you would no longer be slaves…”
But is it possible that you could be “brought out” and continue to be slaves?
Yes, it is.
Like the goldfish ‘set free’ in the lake, continuing to swim in tiny bowl-sized circles, or the pet rabbit cowering in the wide-open space where it has been set down. Freedom involves a totally new mindset. It takes some getting used to, to walk with head held high, when you’re used to walking with eyes lowered….
And that’s the difficult transition period to which Paul referred in Galatians 5: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” That is to say, the Proclamation of Emancipation has been signed, but it has not yet been enacted (and right now it’s the easiest thing in the world to drift back into the old ways of living).
Perhaps the shackles never become comfortable, but they are at least habitual.
Don’t go back! It was for freedom that Christ set you free! I broke the bars of your yoke! The Cross of Christ has defeated the powers of slavery. “It is finished.”
Abraham Lincoln signed the decree marking the end of slavery in the United States in 1863, but many of the hundreds of thousands of slaves didn’t know of it until the end of the war in 1865. The yoke was broken but the heads still hung low.
And what of us?
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul was referring specifically to the way the first believers accepted the grace of God in Christ, experienced the freeing power of the Holy Spirit, but then lapsed back into the familiar patterns of their Jewish rules and regulations.
It’s fairly similar to the way we often behave.
“The good news is that Christ frees us from the need to obnoxiously focus on our goodness, our commitment, and our correctness. Being religious has made us obsessive almost beyond endurance. Jesus invited us to a dance…and we’ve turned it into a march of soldiers, always checking to see if we’re doing it right and are in step and in line with the other soldiers. We know a dance would be more fun, but we believe we must go through hell to get to heaven, so we keep marching.”
That’s Steve Brown in his book A Scandalous Freedom. He’s being intentionally provocative, but it’s important to get the point. He intends to enable you to walk with head held high.
Not arrogance, sure, but there IS a way of boasting in what the Lord has done (according to Paul)! Imagine that dance of exuberant gladness!
Not indifference to others, of course, but there IS an indifference to one’s own need to perform, to achieve or to be approved-of.
Just riotously glad for what God has done.
Lord, today I want to accept your declaration of my freedom at face value and run with it! Lord, let it define me. I want to walk with my head held high, the slave of no one!
No guilt in life,no fear in death – this is the power of Christ in me! -living with such freedom and joy that uptight Christians doubt my salvation.