Freedom seems to be a hot button topic these days. With it, other terms are thrown around and ride along-side it like equality, tolerance, and hate. The problem is that no one understands what freedom really is. When asked what freedom means, many reply with answers like military and wars, Article I freedoms like speech, religion and press, and some even answer close to home with answers about Christ and how He has set us free. However, the most common response we see is that people associate freedom with the ability to do what I see as right in my own eyes. And therein lies the problem. Me.
The Modern View of Freedom
In today's post-modern way of thinking, morality is an individual thing.
What I think is right is what I am going to do and it's the right thing to do. If you think differently than I do, don't press your views on me, keep them to yourself.
This is individualism at its best. Everyone gets offended at everything. A true sense of what is right gets lost in translation because everyone has a different view of what right and wrong is. Even the Israelites had a time when this happened as quoted in Judges 21:25,
25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever he wanted.
The book of wisdom, Proverbs 21:2 says,
2 All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord evaluates the motives.
There is a lot of truth in the wisdom here. When a person goes about their business, it seems right to the individual. "Who are you to judge me?!" they often exclaim. However, it is the Lord God Almighty who judges what right and wrong is. What people want out of the government is freedom in the sense that they can do whatever they want. They want to erase moral values and have laws to tell them what they want to do is ok. Essentially what they want subconsciously is basically anarchy in a rough sense of the word. They want the government there to suit their needs, but not as someone to be "Big Brother". Sooner or later, they will push for all things to be normalized and every group will want to be heard. This is the primary reason why anarchy doesn't work. When everyone does what they see is right, there is no moral absolute. Utter chaos ensues because there are no moral absolutes. In order for society to function, there must be moral absolutes. For example: murder is a crime, stealing is a crime, etc. If everyone had free reign, only God knows what would happen. Sooner or later, Individualism will have to end in this country if we are to prevent a breakdown of our society as we know it. We must return to the original idea of freedom.
The Declaration of Independence
What the Founding Fathers Intended for Freedom
If an Individualistic state isn't what the founding fathers of America had in mind, then what did they have in mind? Basically what they had in mind is a form of government that represented the people's rights. With that said, basic rights were included in this such as freedom of speech, religion and press, the right to bear arms, the right to elect our own representatives, etc. The problem is that people think that the government is infringing upon people's right to live as they see fit. They are taking it so far to say that not only does the government have to give me my rights, but everyone must agree with it and give up their freedom too. In order to truly have freedom, everyone's freedom must be respected.
These days, the homosexual agenda is the most popular with this problem. The homosexuals wanted to be able to have the same taxation and health care rights as heterosexuals. They got it. Now they want everyone to affirm their way of life or they'll sue. That in and of itself is an infringement upon a Christian's freedom to say that it violates their morality. We can disagree with one another without hating, fighting and creating division. A freedom is simply that...a freedom. Freedom defined by the dictionary is:
the quality or state of being out from under the control or in the power of another; able to act or be done as one wishes.
So, in a sense, homosexuals have their freedom. However, to reverse the control to their power takes away our freedom. We all have a right to our freedoms, but that is a paradox as well because no matter what we say and do, we are not truly a "free country". We are still, as defined by the dictionary, under the power and control of the government. There are still limits on what we can and cannot do without punishment from the government, which is why in order to have a truly free society, anarchy must have reign. However, we've already established that anarchy doesn't work and chaos is not what the founding fathers nor the Lord God Almighty had in mind.
Freedom as God Intended
We've established that individualism has its flaws like anarchy does. So what is freedom as God intends? This is a deep subject found throughout the Bible. However, after some research and prayer and listening to God, I've found that Galatians (along with a few other key verses) holds the answer. In order to get the full picture, one must be familiar with the whole book of Galatians. I will be focusing in on chapter 5, however, I encourage you to go read chapters 1 - 4 and 6 too. Here is chapter 5:
Freedom of the Christian
5 Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.2 Take note! I, Paul, tell you that if you get yourselves circumcised, Christ will not benefit you at all. 3 Again I testify to every man who gets himself circumcised that he is obligated to keep the entire law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law are alienated from Christ; you have fallen from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything; what matters is faith working through love.
7 You were running well. Who prevented you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion did not come from the One who called you. 9 A little yeast leavens the whole lump of dough. 10 I have confidence in the Lord you will not accept any other view. But whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty. 11 Now brothers, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 I wish those who are disturbing you might also get themselves castrated!
13 For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another.
The Spirit versus the Flesh
16 I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. 26 We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Just before Paul begins verse 5, chapter 4 concludes with a comparison of a slave woman and a free woman, stating that as members of Christ's body, we are children of the free woman. Thus, chapter 5 verse 1 opens with a sort of paradoxical statement. The NIV states it a bit differently than the HCSB. The NIV states, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." Either version you read, this statement is not easy to digest. When you look at the rest of verse 1, it is better stated as an entire sentence. "Christ has liberated us into freedom, therefore, stand firm and don't submit again to a yoke of slavery." When we understand that the freedom Christ has given us isn't a license to do whatever we want, our thinking begins to shift. Go back and re-read verse 13. We are not to use our freedom as a license for the flesh to do what it wants, but to serve others willingly.
In other words, the life that we live is not ours to live (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We were bought at a price by Christ, therefore, the life we live is not ours, but His. So literally, it is for the freedom in Christ that He has set us free from the bondage of sin and death. We were not set free to do as we want, but as He wants. Remember, Christ also tells us in Matthew 11:30 that,
30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
When we give ourselves to Christ, we are not to be about "me". We are to be about Him. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:23,
23 “Everything is permissible,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up.
Although, this was spoken in context of eating meat sacrificed to idols, we can take away from this that our main goal should be to be of help and encouragement to others. When we attack others - whether they are part of the Body of Christ or not - we are not helping, but harming. Its ok to stand against sin...but do it in a manner that brings people to Christ for forgiveness, not pushes them the other direction.
Freedom isn't individualism. Freedom isn't anarchy. Freedom isn't the ability to say and do what we want. Freedom is the ability to have life in Christ without being in bondage to sin and death. Christ has set us free. Therefore, let's go out and live life by the Holy Spirit. If we live by the Spirit, we give the flesh no room to operate. Therefore, if we are divisive, pursuing sins of the flesh like sexual immorality, hateful and angry, we are allowing the flesh to rule us. However, if we are full of love, joy, peace, patience, etc., then the Spirit is ruling in us. Let us strive to allow the Spirit full reign in our lives, to transform us and change us, and doing so, bring others to Christ.