What Set You Free? 

“What set you free?” said the boy. “Love,” said the horse.

What Set You Free?

It’s another snippet of wisdom from Charlie Mackesy’s book, “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse”, with its simple drawings of animals and people conversing about the big issues of life.

“What set you free?” One can only imagine the shackles from which the horse in our picture has been set free. We see the horse conversing with his friend the boy, and we read our own interpretations and reverse engineer our life experience into the question. What robs you of your freedom? Addiction, alcoholism, a difficult marriage, a dead-end job, or crippling debt or crushing anxiety?

We are all bound by something, and we envy those who appear footloose and fancy-free: school kids experiencing the best years of their lives; freshers in their first year of further education; early career singles with no mortgage; young marrieds with no kids; empty nesters and those embracing their mid-life crisis. How come it’s always someone else who is enjoying the freedom we long for or, at least, appearing to be. Many of us are trapped on the western treadmill of societal expectations, keeping up with the proverbial Joneses and climbing the greasy pole of promotion. We have never been so healthy and wealthy and yet we still long for that elusive freedom.

The Bible holds out a promise of true freedom; it promises that those whom the Son (Jesus) sets free are “free indeed” (John 8:36). The freedom on offer is not freedom to do as we like but freedom to be the people we were created to be.  Let’s return to the horse for a moment. Presumably, as for most horses, there had been a time when he was in a comfortable but constraining stable block, with a pretty fenced paddock that provided food for his belly but starved his soul of adventure a wild horse from the prairie tamed by domestication. Now love had set him free to run wild in the desert, master of his own destiny free to be the horse that God intended him to be.

We, too, are chained and constrained. Controlled by sinful habits and the consequences of godless choices. Unable to turn over that new leaf. Like the leopard that is unable to change his spots. Listen, then, to the words of Paul, the man who wrote the book of Romans, as he struggles for freedom from sin: 

“Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:16-19). 

Here we see the inner struggle of a man saying, in effect, that he cannot control his actions. No matter how much his conscience condemns him, he cannot stop himself doing the things that he shouldn’t, and cannot do the things that he knows he ought to do. The mind is willing but the flesh is weak. He has come to an understanding that in him there is nothing good. 

Our struggle is much like Paul’s. I am sure that if you are honest you will admit that so often you fail to do the good that you intend to do and, in turn, cannot control your tendency to do things that you had sworn never again to succumb to.

The Bible calls this problem sin and we are all tarred with the same brush so, like Paul, we might well cry out: “Who will deliver me from this body of death?”, but there is good news ahead as we read on. 

Although Paul is at the end of his tether in chapter 7, a few verses later he is saying, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). In effect, he says, “I am free from the condemnation of my conscience and before God!”

For Paul, the change has been made by coming to an appreciation of what the Lord Jesus, the sinless Son of God, did out of love for him on the cross of Calvary, where He died to take away the sin of the world. Those whom the Son sets free are really free.

The Lord Jesus can free you from the guilt of sin from your past, the controlling power of sin in the present, and the eternal punishment due for sin in the future. If you will acknowledge your guilt, accepting, like Paul, that Christ Jesus died on a cross for your sins, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved and set free. Free, not to live as you please, but to be the man or woman that God intended you to be, so that when others might ask, “What set you free?”, you can reply with the horse, “Love”.


Image credit: KAL VISUALS