Free At Last!

There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ. — Romans 8:1

Today we honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the great civil rights leader who gave us one of the most celebrated lines in modern speech making and literature. Quoting an old spiritual, he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial August 28, 1963, and proclaimed to his listeners:

"Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

He referred to the hope and dream of a day when “all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing.” He was talking about freedom from prejudice and discrimination.

But he also understood spiritual freedom. During his Birmingham civil rights campaign, Dr. King asked participants to pledge to “meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus” and to “walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love” and “pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.”1 He knew the secret to freedom.

Nowhere is spiritual freedom more proclaimed than in Romans 8:1, one of the boldest, most freeing and revolutionary statements found in any sacred writing: “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ.”

Condemnation is a curse. It is a poison on the planet that leads to despair, discouragement and even the kind of religious fanaticism that cultivates terrorism and racism. Condemnation is a spiritual life gone wrong.

Condemnation is easy to recognize because:

  • You feel guilty all the time.
  • You’re fearful.
  • You live with a profound sense of rejection. You might know intellectually that God has accepted you and forgiven you, but in your heart you don’t feel loved or accepted. This translates into how you view people—and causes you to reject others through prejudice or fear.

The Christian life is an exchange. We exchange an old life for a new one. Bad habits with new ones. A sentence of death for the gift of eternal life. We replace fear with freedom.

You cannot be free and be controlled by fear. Fear is the worst kind of tyranny and oppression. It hinders life and paralyzes its victims. Fear quenches the Spirit, and deceives us into forgetting our Heavenly Father, who promises, “For I know the thoughts I think toward you…thoughts of peace and not evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Romans 8:1 is one of the most liberating statements to ring through eternity. And, for those who have given their lives to Jesus, it is the truth that will set us free and help us to love others without fear and prejudice.

When I contemplate this powerful Scripture, I want to echo the words of Martin Luther King, celebrate, and cry with joy, “Free at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”


  1. Charles Colson, Martin Luther King and Religious Freedom,