Freedom: Part II
In our last entry, we discussed the Bible’s emphasis of freedom: freedom is so important to God that not only is it one of the very first things He tells humankind but it is a theme that overwhelms the majority of the Bible, ultimately climaxing in the work of Jesus on the cross.
Of this work and of God’s immense focus on freedom, Paul says in Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Therefore, the Jesus-believing life needs to be a life of freedom; the God-saturated life needs to be a life of freedom; the Bible-based life needs to be a life of freedom.
So, what is freedom?
Historically, thinkers and writers like Aldus Huxley and Friedrich Nietzsche considered freedom to be the ability and capacity to do whatever the heart desires—Nietzsche once said, “Freedom is the will to be responsible for ourselves… to grow more indifferent to hardship, to severity, to privation, and even to life itself.” And so for most of us, when we think of “freedom,” we think of it as immunity to harm, ultimate stoicism, guilt-free licentiousness, and moral liberation.
Consider who most modern Americans consider to be “suppressed,” lacking freedom: the dogmatically religious, the culturally ostracized, the financially burdened, the emotionally compromised… But this is a bit problematic because, at the end of the day, this idea of freedom is contradictive.
Free to Run
Tim Keller summarizes this contradiction as so: if you want to run win a marathon, you will need to make some sacrifices—you can’t eat whatever you want, you can’t spend your time doing whatever you want to do. In other words, in order to experience the freedom of winning a marathon, you need to sacrifice your freedom to eat whatever you want, to sleep as much as you want, and to exercise only when you want.
If winning a marathon is what you consider to be ultimate freedom, then you need to sacrifice lesser freedoms for ultimate freedom.
Free to Stand
This is why in Galatians 5:1, Paul says that freedom isn’t Nietzschian; it is deeply spiritual in that it is composed of two things: standing firm on God’s Word and not submitting to a yoke of slavery. To Paul, the most ultimate freedom is in standing firm on God’s Word and submitting to every letter therein.
This is also why Jesus says in John 8:32, “If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” To Jesus (and therefore to Paul), freedom isn’t immunity or unbound liberty—there is a sense of sacrifice and submission; a sense of obedience and devotion.
Here’s the thing, for many of us, we’ve heard all this information about Jesus setting us “free” but we don’t know what it’s like to actually experience this freedom—and here’s my theory: many of us stand firm on ourselves, convinced we will be free when we finally reach what we consider to be ultimate freedom (you know, like that car, or that job, or that marriage, or that school, or that … etc).
But I know for certain, if you stand on the Word of God, you will know freedom—not just as an idea or concept, but as an ultimate reality, because this is why Christ came: to set us free for freedom’s sake.