I had to sign a student covenant when I enrolled in a Christian college my freshman year, a list of rules including, “I will not dance, drink, smoke, or gamble.” I was a terrible dancer, too young to drink, didn’t smoke, and typically lost at cards, so I signed, but I did wonder why. After all, didn’t Paul say, “for freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). These rules did not sound like freedom.
Of course, freedom does not mean you can do anything, because when it is Christ who sets you free, you won’t want to do just anything. Some things actually send us back into slavery, and Paul mentions “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21). Do not do those things, he says, or they will take over your life and master you. You will not be free at all.
But there are certain things you can enjoy any time, all the time. That list Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit. I’ve often wondered if perhaps this would be a better covenant for a Christian college: I will pursue “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). That means I can do those things anytime I want.
A covenant of freedom. I would rather sign that one.
My God, You have changed everything about my life. I used to think I was in charge and could do anything I wanted, but I discovered that those things took over, and pretty soon, I did them whether I wanted to or not. They were in charge and they weren’t good. So I asked You to take over, and Your Son saved me, and Your Holy Spirit is changing me. My desires are becoming Your desires, and I am doing more and more good, not because I have to, but because I want to. Thank You. It’s a better way to live!