Who doesn’t love “freedom”? The word conjures courage and a sense of pride. “This is what we’re about!” Freedom is a rallying cry, an emotional touchpoint, and a cherished American birthright.
But what is it?
What do we really mean when we use the word “freedom”?
More than likely, we mean “freedom from”. Freedom from oppression. Freedom from constraint. Freedom from those who curtail and hem us in. Freedom to do as we please.
I challenge you, however, to reconsider your view of freedom. Scripture gives us a very different picture.
In the Bible, true freedom is a spiritual state, rather than a political state. The man who has no constraints is not necessarily free. It is possible to have political liberty and still be in deep spiritual bondage.
True freedom, in the Biblical view, is not just about having liberty, but also about exercising it wisely and well. After God delivered Israel from slavery in the book of Exodus, he then gave them the torah to teach them how to live.
Freedom is not simply freedom to do whatever we please. Paul makes this clear in Galatians when he writes:
“You my brothers and sisters were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”
The Christian doesn’t first think about freedom from constraint.
The Christian thinks first about freedom to serve.
That is a massive mindshift. And it is incredibly liberating.
We can come up with any number of imagined constraints on us. Life, after all is constraining. When we focus on our constraints, we disempower ourselves – we submit ourselves to bondage. We keep saying “if only…”
- “If only I had a better job …..”
- “If only I were married…..”
- “If only I lived in a better place….”
- “If only they would give me a break….”
- “If only he would stop nagging….”
- “If only she were a little more affectionate….”
- “If only my parents would lighten up….”
- “If only my kids would listen….”
We keep imagining how things would be so much better, we would be so much freer “If only…”
But that’s a false road.
In Christ, you are free. That doesn’t mean that things will be easy or pleasant or fun. But it does mean that you are perfectly accepted by the Lord. You don’t have to make excuses to the Lord. You don’t have to explain your situation to the Lord.
Nothing is holding you back from serving someone in love. You have someone in your life right now who you are equipped to serve. You’re free to serve and to bless (and to relish and enjoy the spiritual fullness that comes from freely offered service). Now, they may not receive it graciously – but that is their choice, not yours. People are not projects – your freedom does not hinge on “fixing” other people; freedom is simply expressed in your offering your gifts in service.
So our challenge as Christians is to ask “How am I free to serve today?”
How about it? How have you practiced freedom today?
About the cover image: Back in May, my friend Nicholas Yoda and I went to Louisville to experience U2’s tour commemorating the 30th anniversary of “The Joshua Tree.” This photo is from their performance of “Mothers of the Disappeared.” U2 has consistently campaigned for political freedom and consistently called people to exercise their freedoms in service of others, so I knew I wanted a photo from that concert to be the cover for this post. This song, which closes “The Joshua Tree” album, is a heartbreaking cry, echoing the pain of families of victims of political murders in 1980s South America. In the 80s, U2 used this song to call their fans to involvement with Amnesty International.