So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. - John 8:36
It is a universal cry of the human heart. The cry 'freedom' has resonated through the long halls of history and just as in day's past this longing resonates just as loudly today. Of course, freedom has many contexts including civil rights, gender equality, economic freedom and the list goes on and on. The struggle for freedom from the oppression of others, thoughts, ideologies and in many ways from ourselves sets a fertile ground for the human struggle. The struggle to regain (Not that we ever really had it but somehow know we were created for it) the authenticity and to thrive, to create and be at peace. To shed the heavy weights of fear, toil and death in all its forms; to regain the simplicity of being – to know (experience) we are loved and free in turn to love. Indeed the yearning for freedom is intricately a part of our longing for love rooted in something much bigger than ourselves.
Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. - Galatians 5:1, MSG
I have the privilege to walk alongside folks who are exploring freedom in Christ. The beauty and authenticity of freedom we have in Christ as in no other way has the capacity to restore to us what we sense in the core of us is genuinely amiss. In Christ our alienation from our Source with its shame, guilt, and self-righteousness are dealt with once and for all. The symptoms are legions as we scramble to attempt to satisfy our deepest most intimate longings through unabashed consumption of things and yes, people. All in an effort to fill the hole, a deep yearning within us that can only be truly satisfied by God – Christ being the ideal path to that relationship. Please, when I speak of Christ resist the temptation to think of the religion of Christianity rather I am speaking of the person of Jesus Christ – our answers are not found in a religious system but in the person of Jesus Christ – God in the flesh who dwelt among us and for loves sake offered Himself as the cure for our shame and sense of guilt; which keeps us from knowing Him and being whole!
It’s impossible to write everything there is to say about freedom in a simple article like this one, however my hope is to offer a few thoughts that may help us think a little deeper about freedom and this may be a welcomed signpost for us along the way. Often, we embrace - with great enthusiasm – the idea of freedom from _____________. You can insert sin, death, fear, lies, anxiety, manipulation, financial struggle, relational challenges, sickness, oppression, abuse, religious obligation and a host of other things. These are real challenges that many people face and I, like many of you have and perhaps are still crying for freedom from these things.
Authentic freedom however does not free us from living life. It doesn’t free us from consequences of our choices rather to make freer choices and freely accept the consequences of that freedom. We are freed from so we can be free to. This is the other, deeper side of freedom. The freedom to love, the freedom to overcome, the freedom to make healthy choices, the freedom to stay free, the freedom to be responsible, the freedom to be generous, the freedom to be honest, the freedom to be a friend, the freedom to serve others, the freedom to lay your life down for our friends, the freedom to go the extra mile, the freedom to turn the other cheek, the freedom to forgive 70×7, the freedom to be content with a little or a lot, the freedom…. and this list too goes on and on.
Since we’re free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you’ve let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you’ve started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom! - Romans 6:16-18
Freedom from and freedom to are different sides of the same coin. They offer us a fuller experience of genuine freedom. For many, a deep sense of freedom is being cultivated even amidst and in the throws of some very difficult circumstances. For example, freedom to discover meaning – even in suffering or struggles – a sense of meaning which transcends circumstances and yields a most mystical and powerful, transformative freedom that has inspired tremendous courage, perseverance and sacrifice – the ultimate of freedom! The freedom to make love inspired choices, to love, to be kind and generous, to respond with hope and mercy in the midst of our pain demonstrates the most beautiful authentic freedom.
Pastor and author Charles Kingsley (1819 – 1875) wrote “There are two freedoms – the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where he is free to do what he ought.” I agree by qualifying that “ought” is what one can only do when they are truly free, and it is not an obligation to earn salvation or the love of God but because we already experience God’s saving love.