The debate on what is freedom has gained a level of intensity in recent times. The Oxford dictionary’s definition of freedom is
- condition of being free or unrestricted
- personal or civic liberty
- liberty of action.
To have an appreciation of why freedom Is desired and so fiercely fought for we need to take a look the root cause of humanity’s loss of freedom.
In Genesis Chapter 2, in the story of God’s creation, we are introduced to a scene of perfect freedom. Then, catastrophically, we see how humanity gave up its freedom by choosing to rebel against God. From that moment, the perfect freedom God created in the Garden of Eden was gone, and the long-term effects have been felt by every generation physically and spiritually.
From that day in history, humanity has sought to create a system of control often interpreted as freedoms for the function of society, governments, and world powers. These systems are embraced by convinced individuals with names such as communism, democracy, socialism, and man-made empires, etc. Still today there is effort to create a world acceptable to individual leaders and countries’ agendas.
Current events in Ukraine are yet another example of humanity’s conviction that they have the answers for just governance of people and territories. We don't have to look hard to realise that the utopia in the minds of world leaders is always in reality radically inadequate for gaining “Eden’s freedom” in real living of life. Indisputably, since the tower of Babel that resulted in the dispersal of people across the world with different languages, ethnicity, and aspirations, there has been repeated failure of governments, empires and individual leader’s pursuit for control.
We acknowledge (Romans 13 v 1–3) that while God ordains governments to have dominion and power over nations, it was never His first choice for humanity but rather a result of mankind’s rejection of God’s rule. In effect, these governments are given the power to give and take, to wield the sword, and punish its people in accordance with their own moral judgment and social structures.
So how does as Christian “freedom” differ from our secular dictionary's definition of freedom? The Bible teaches us that Christian freedom is secured in the grace actions of the cross, that is then lived in the present reality of our daily lives, and fully realised in the Christian’s citizenship in heaven. The opposite of freedom, both in secular or Christian interpretation, is slavery. Importantly, the Christian definition of slavery is identified with our personal sin.
Galatians 3:22 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
Throughout history humanity has found itself living in spiritual slavery to sin without even realising it. They chase false gods of money, success, personal comfort, political power, and sexual satisfaction - only to realise they still have an emptiness that can’t be filled by any of those things.
For the Christian, the offer of freedom is found in their relationship with Jesus Christ and His conquering power over the slavery of Sin.
Galatians 5:13-14 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbour as yourself."
Christian freedom is gained uniquely by the cross and is deeply at odds with individualistic notions of freedom and liberty. The risk is that Christians begin to lay claim to freedoms that God has never promised. Freedom of religion, freedom of worship, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, are all laudable ideals, but Christ didn’t die for these! These freedoms can in fact be taken away as many Christians in our world are experiencing. But here is the incredible truth, even if these freedoms are taken away, our freedom in Christ cannot be taken away.
Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
In conclusion, understand that our world of secular governments with their diverse interpretations of freedom are not guaranteed by God! Rather the Christian is called to take up their cross and follow Christ often resulting in misunderstanding, hardship, and even suffering. The freedom we find in Christ can never be stolen from those who trust in Him.
John 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.