So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
In “Me and Bobby McGee” Janis Joplin sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” When the record was released in 1971, the lyric caught the cynicism and despair of a nation violently conflicted about freedom. Nearly every minority declared its freedom from the straight white male establishment. Without equal protection under the law, these groups had nothing to lose. In a sense, that made them free to begin with. What they really wanted, then, was the right to express and exercise their freedom.
Personality and Being
When we come to Christ, we likewise have nothing to lose. Everything we accumulate over the years—attitudes, values, habits, learning, and ambitions—is useless to Him. They’re behaviors and knowledge we acquire as survival strategies. They’re the stuff of personality, the image we sculpt to please others and us.
In contrast, who we are—our being—is solely comprised of what we brought with us into the world: gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. This is what God made and intended us to be for His pleasure. They’re permanently placed in us to reflect the image and likeness of the eternal God. We follow Jesus to cast off the flawed armor of personality and fulfill our beings’ potential to express God’s perfection.
Hebrews counsels us to shed our personality instincts and follow Christ.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12.1)
All those personal aspects we think are essential to our survival hinder us. They burden us with fear, doubt, and self-reliance, none of which fits a life governed by love, faith, and obedience to God.
Let It Go
It all has to go, including anxieties about anyone’s approval. On this, Jesus could not have been more candid:
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14.26)
We can’t follow Him if we insist on dragging along our personality-driven desire to please everybody else. Not everybody will be happy about or agree with our commitment to Christ. Sometimes our greatest opposition will arise from those closest to us. These people should always remain important to us, but their viewpoints and pleasing them should not. As followers of Jesus, only what He says counts and His pleasure with us is all that matters.
With nothing to lose, we have everything to gain, including the right to express our freedom in Christ. That’s why Jesus demands our total commitment from the start. When we let go of everything we rely on, we can focus all of our energy on perfecting our resemblance to our Creator. Christ sacrificed His life to purchase our freedom. The instant we realize what this really means, we’ll indeed be free.