I thought I’d share an insight I had last week while discussing “freedom” with my small group. It was a fascinating evening, with so many different ways of looking at the word itself, its meaning(s), and its consequences. I expressed this particular thought in a couple of sentences. I’ll expand slightly here – not much – and I hope it will bless you. It’s a very simple idea, but with huge significance. It was new to me, but I’m sure it has been explored at length elsewhere and I would love to be pointed in the direction of some of those explorations.
We think about freedom most often as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.” Paul wrote much in his epistles about freedom in Christ, but often spoke at the same time of being a slave to righteousness. In fact, it seems that slavery rather than freedom seems to be his main focus. For example, read Romans 6:20-23, at the heart of a lengthy discussion on the nature of sin, law and grace:
When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 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. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You can choose to be a slave to sin or a slave of God – where is the freedom in that? As Bob Dylan put it in his song Gotta Serve Somebody:
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
But Jesus said the truth will make us free, as he also described our slavery to sin (John 8:31-36). So how does this work?
I think the answer lies in the call for us to be Christ-like (see scripture like John 13:13-17, Ephesians 5:1-2 and 1 Peter 2:21).
Because Jesus Christ is God, is the Truth, and is Good. He did not sin. He was tempted but chose not to fall for those temptations. Jesus is able to do whatever He wants to do, and so by the definition I gave previously He has total freedom. The key is in our minds. As we seek to become more and more like Christ, our minds are continually transformed and our slavery to sin is continually diminished. If we could just become totally Christ-like, then we too would be totally free, able to do whatever we want, because it would be good. In this world our sinful nature keeps that ultimate goal just out of reach, but somehow, in a way that remains to me beautifully mysterious, when we are gathered together to dwell with God at the culmination of His plan, we will experience that perfect freedom. Until then, we can keep striving, and enjoy the glimpses of spiritual freedom with which He blesses us all, even in the most difficult of earthly circumstances.