america is not the author of freedom
As Independence Day was approaching (and is now here), I found myself surrounded by distorted perspectives of what it means to be free. Videos, memes, TV shows describe a self-indulgent, dangerous freedom with one word: ‘Murica. “Because when you’re free,” says the western world, “you can do whatever you want without repercussions.” (Insert as much profanity as you feel is accurate.) Freedom is doing what you want, when you want, no matter what other people think. I am not necessarily going to combat this common American perspective, because I don’t want you to get the idea that I am somehow anti-America. I am beyond thankful that America is a free country. I appreciate that we are able to have free speech, we have the right to vote, and are able worship God publicly; I feel so blessed to have grown up in a place that allows me to freely partake in these things. I would never want to diminish the worth of the constitution or devalue the service of those who put their lives on the line to maintain these freedoms.
That being said, I am going to put this reminder out there: as Christ-followers, our citizenship is not in America. It is in heaven. We are sojourners in this foreign place, and must be careful to not fall captive to their ways of thinking. There is a concept of freedom far greater than America (or any country) could provide, a concept that is very near to my heart. An idea so profound, I had it etched on my skin as a daily reminder of who I am. Christ has set us free. Over and over again, the Lord has spoken to me using this simple phrase with such profound meaning. When I feel enslaved to sin, Christ has set me free. When I find myself in legalistic routine, Christ has set me free. When I am being lackadaisical in my faith, Christ has set me free. When I am not meeting the expectations of others, or even myself, Christ has set me free.
How can the concept of freedom blanket all of these struggles? There are times that I don’t understand how Christ’s gift of freedom applies, but then I go back to a definition that I feel encompasses it all: Christ has set me free from falsehood. Bear with me here as I attempt to explain. God is perfect. And in His perfection, He not simply embodies but is many things, including truth. If we are to be molded into the image of Christ (who is truth) we must be distanced from falsehood. Being in bondage to false ideas keeps us from fully and completely surrendering ourselves and being the Christians, the “Little Christs,” we are called to be. When I feel enslaved to sin, Christ has set me free from the false notion that it will satisfy my flesh. When I find myself in legalistic routine, Christ has set me free from the false idea that I can somehow earn favor by being a “good person”. When I am being lackadaisical in my faith, Christ has set me free from the false thought that his grace can be used for our selfish gain. When I am not meeting the expectations of others, or even myself, Christ has set me free from the false concept that someone other than God knows who I ought to be and what I ought to be doing.
Christ did not set us free to give us space to be and do as we please. On the cross, He put to death His flesh so that our flesh may be put to death in our association with Him. The freedom He gives is not promoting a life lived in selfishness. It is instead the gate to a winding path of righteousness, where our every step proclaims the glory and majesty of our Lord God. For if the son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
My final words for this week, dear friends: let us not be a people so concerned with maintaining our freedom that we fail to exercise it. What good is your political activity if you are not using your freedom of speech, your freedom of religion, and your right to vote to further the gospel? Let us live freely in Christ, trusting that the freedom He provides is far greater than that of the country we currently reside in.