I used to always love when my mother took me to the circus. I loved the elephants. I loved the magicians. I loved the acrobats. I loved the popcorn and cherry-coke slushees. I hated the clowns, but I who didn’t?
Our local circus had the wildest petting zoo imaginable. You didn’t just get to interact with mere goats or sheep. No, it was so much bigger! They let you feed the two-ton elephants! I vividly remember standing on my tippy toes overlooking a little chainlink fence while lifting a handful of peanuts up into the sky. The enormous elephant’s wrinkly trunk reached down, grabbed the salty snack, and popped the peanuts in his mouth. It was mesmerizing but also a little terrifying. Elephants are the biggest land animal on planet earth. It’s mind blowing to see them confined by a little fence and a small chain around their foot. They could easily fling their foot and break out of their imprisonment, but they don’t.
The super sad reason for this is that elephants were trained with much heavier chains when they were babies. They buck and kick over and over to break free from the trap to no avail. As time goes on, the elephants just stop trying all together. After they give up, the trainers swap out their heavy chains for lighter chains. The poor elephants are so accustomed to their chains that they’re conditioned to their slavery. They assume that freedom is futile and impossible for them.
Sometimes we can live like these elephants. We feel enslaved to our sins, struggles, and shame and then listen to sermons about our salvation. We know that Jesus took care of sin, but we still feel trapped. We may understand that Jesus gave us freedom, but we don’t experience that reality.
Paul wrote Galatians to the churches in Asia Minor to help them make sense of their faith. He heard that they were starting to follow a legalistic theology that focused more on rules than authentic faith. Paul wanted to correct their misconceptions, so he wrote a little letter that packed a big punch. Towards the end of the book, he lays out his core argument by saying, “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” (5:1).
Maybe you’ve been conditioned to the chains in your life. You feel as though you’ll always fall into that specific sin. You feel as though you’ll always battle doubt. You feel as though you’ll deal with guilt and shame for your entire life. If you feel that way, then you need to carefully read the wonderful words of Galatians. Jesus broke those chains, and you are free. If you feel imprisoned, it’s just an illusion.
Walk in freedom from this day forward. You are not trapped. You are not stuck. The chains are broken, and the keys are in your hands. If anything is holding you back from who God wants you to be, shake off those shackles. They may seem strong, but Jesus is stronger.