Monday, July 04, 2016

Independence Day

America talks a lot about "freedom". We have the "American Civil Liberties Union", an organization dedicated to ensuring the liberties of a few particular groups against those of all the others. We have an entire organization dedicated to "freedom from religion", as if that's actual freedom. But mostly it's just "freedom" -- "We can do whatever we want."

The Bible talks about freedom, too.

Jesus's first speech after His temptation in the desert came as a quote from Isaiah. "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners." (Isa 61:1) Ah, yes. "Liberty to captives and freedom to the prisoners." Freedom. Paul said, "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." (Gal 5:1) Freedom.

Peter, writing about "false prophets", said, "Speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved." (2 Peter 2:18-19) Apparently, then, the appearance of freedom is not the same thing as actual freedom. So, if the idea of freedom that the Bible has is not simply "We can do whatever we want", what is it?

In that same passage in Galatians Paul goes on to say, "For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." (Gal 5:13) Interesting. Biblical freedom is not simply permission to do whatever you want. It is permission to "through love serve one another." It is permission to not make for yourself opportunities for the flesh. Peter pipes in on this elsewhere. "Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God." (1 Peter 2:16)

Biblical freedom, I suspect, doesn't look anything like we liberty-minded Americans generally think of. It isn't "the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint." It is becoming a bondslave of God. That's something we lack the ability to do outside of Christ. This freedom is the freedom to do what is right, to serve one another through love. It is, apparently, a better freedom than our cheaper, "do what you want" version. We just aren't convinced yet. For us, then, Independence Day would be the day we submitted our lives to Christ and the freedom we enjoy is the freedom of being a bondslave to God. I would guess that's not on anyone's mind today.

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