We all want to be free. I can’t think of anyone who would disagree with that. But it seems like everyone’s definition of true freedom is different.
Is freedom the right to own land? To make your own choices? To drive whatever speed limit you feel appropriate? To wear or not wear a mask? To speak your mind on any topic in any setting? What is freedom?
There’s recently been a lot of talk about guarding the freedoms given to Americans. Unfortunately, in the debate of whether or not “they” are taking away your rights, we often lose the true meaning of freedom. Right now, freedom means the benefits of the individual and the ability to do what pleases him or her.
This isn’t the freedom we read about in scripture. And the Bible is all about freedom. In fact, it says that Jesus came for the very sake of true liberty. Yet I don’t think Jesus would be standing with the current cries for a particular brand of freedom.
Jesus is all about freedom. So it’s important that we understand the kind of freedom we should truly be fighting for. Here are 3 truths to help us develop a biblical understanding of freedom.
1. Christians experience freedom from sin.
When we’re talking about freedom, it’s important to understand what we’re free from. Here’s what Paul has to say about it in Romans.
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” (Romans 6:22)
There’s one thing that holds every single person on this earth captive and enslaved. It doesn’t have any bias towards geography, race, age, or language. It’s sin. Each and every person who has ever walked this earth can relate to the bondage of sin. No matter how hard you work or how educated you become, you can’t outrun sin. It is the destroyer of all things and the taker of lives.
This is what Jesus sacrificed his life to free you from. When Jesus first began his ministry, he went to the synagogue in Nazareth and read scripture. The passage he read was significant because it revealed what his mission is.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
This is what Jesus came to bring, but it wasn’t in the way they expected it. Their physical situations didn’t immediately change, but their spiritual situations did. You see, the poor didn’t instantly become stacked with cash and the people suffering in prison didn’t run free that night. But freedom was declared.
Certainly, Jesus will bring the fullness of freedom, but even now we walk in freedom. It is the freedom of everlasting life. It is the freedom to live an abundant life even if your physical circumstances don’t change.
The truest form of freedom isn’t dependent upon your location or what’s physically happening around you. It’s freedom for those things to not control your joy and to rob you of the rich life Jesus has for you. Freedom isn’t about the right to free speech, owning your own property, or going about your day however you see fit.
Freedom is about your eternal state being changed and rewritten. It’s about redeeming you from the weight of the dirtiest and darkest thought you’ve ever had. The freedom of Jesus is about so much more than making you comfortable.
2. Your freedom is for the good of others.
While we’ve been saved from the eternal weight of sin, the freedom that Jesus has given us is also meant to be used for something.
“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. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5:13)
Many of us view freedom as an individual benefit, but that runs counter to how scripture describes freedom. The most beautiful and truest form of freedom is that you would have the ability to better love and serve others. At the heart of the freedom Jesus intended for us is living out his command to care for others.
I recently spoke with a dentist who explained the reason it’s standard protocol for him to wear a mask while working. He informed me that it had nothing to do with his own benefit, but it’s a measure of care he takes for his patients. As he works within the close personal space of another person, the mask acts as a barrier between him and his patient. When you’re talking and leaning over someone it’s very likely that you might unknowingly have saliva or even secretion from your nose fall out onto the other person. So as an act of care for his patients he wears a mask. Even though there is no medical benefit to himself personally.
Paul’s warning to the church of Galatia is that there is a temptation to see their freedom as an opportunity to fulfill the desires of their flesh. An opportunity to fulfill their personal desires and justify it in their freedom given by Christ.
Paul knows this is happening, so he reminds them that their freedom isn’t a pass to indulge in their own selfishness but needs to be used to love others. They are no longer bound to the law, but that doesn’t mean the law doesn’t matter. Jesus came to fulfill the law, not abolish it. So as you walk by the Spirit and live in the freedom of Jesus to love others you are fulfilling the law.
Freedom in Jesus has always been about your ability to better love others.
So as we live in a time when it feels like your freedoms are being challenged, I encourage you to stop and think about the kind of freedom you are fighting for. Is it for the benefit of your own desires or for others?
3. Freedom comes with responsibility.
As we understand what we’re free from and what we’re free for, what we begin to realize is that freedom really is a responsibility.
“‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything.” (1 Corinthians 6:12)
In the church of Corinth there was a lot of sin and ungodliness happening among believers. One of their arguments was that they were free in Jesus and were thus allowed to do anything. Paul reminds them that just because they are able to act in a certain way doesn’t mean exercising that measure of freedom is beneficial.
The purpose behind the freedom Jesus has given you is that it would be used for his glory. As we desire to be more like Jesus, we have to start viewing our freedom as a tool for his glory, rather than a reason to push forward our own agenda.
The Christian life has always been about laying your life down in surrender to Jesus. Even in our freedom we must surrender the way we would like to use that freedom at the feet of Jesus. Because what we have been given is powerful and we must care for it responsibly.
Use your freedom wisely.
Our freedom is a gift and with every gift Jesus gives we must not squander it or use it foolishly. When biblical freedom is viewed more as a responsibility and less as something we deserve we will care for it better.
There will be moments when your personal freedom is challenged and that’s uncomfortable. The desire to fight back and push forward your freedom in spite of who it’s benefiting is a natural response. But Jesus wants us to use our freedom for the benefit and love of others and not for our personal desires.
Biblical freedom is far more about loving others and living a life of godliness than it is about exercising the power to carry out your own desires.