by Christine Sine
I wrote this post a couple of years ago but still holds true for me as I reflect on the meaning of freedom, interdependence and independence in the US. The Black Lives Matter movement has made me very aware that freedom on paper does not mean freedom from prejudice, distrust and abuse.
So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.
For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another. Galatians 5:1, 13-15 NLT
What does it mean to be free? Today is Independence Day in the U.S. when Americans celebrate their “freedom”. To be honest, it is a celebration I struggle with because I don’t believe God calls us to be independent but rather interdependent. I also realize that our cultural perspectives shape our views of freedom.
To Americans, the concept of freedom focuses on the freedom of individual choice, which can be as trivial as the right to choose whether I want my eggs sunny side up or over easy, or as serious as the right to bear arms. What I struggle with is that there seems to be little recognition of the often dire consequences our individual choices can have for the society or for the world in which we live.
To Australians, freedom revolves around the freedom of society and the recognition that our decisions all have consequences, not just for us as individuals, but for all of our society and our world. Consequently, most Australians are willing to give up the right to bear arms for the good of a safe society in which we don’t have to worry about mass gun violence and killings. In the Australian political system, voting is compulsory because of the belief that with the freedom of citizenship comes the responsibility of participation in the process that provides our freedom.
Unfortunately, neither country does very well when it comes to granting freedom to all. We like to be exclusive – no freedom to immigrants, to those of other sexual orientation, those with disabilities, those of other races or religions. And of course we were all slow to grant freedom to our indigenous brothers and sisters and as the Black Lives Matter movement shows there are many who still don’t feel free in spite of the abolition of slavery. Whether we think of freedom as individual or societal, we all like to limit who we give freedom to.
All of this leads me to my most important question about freedom, “What does freedom look like in the kingdom of God?”. Obviously there is an element of individual freedom – all of us need to take on the individual responsibility to kneel at the foot of the Cross, repent and reach out for the salvation of Christ. However, our entry into the family of God faces us with serious consequences for how we act in society.
Our freedom as Christians means that we no longer focus on our own needs but rather “consider the needs of others as more important than our own” (Philippians 2). It means that we live by the law of love – what James calls “the royal law” (James 2:8). In the quote above, Paul sums this up very well, “Do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbour as yourself.”
What is Your Response?
What comes to mind when you think about freedom? Take out your journal and piece of paper and divide it into 2 columns. On one side write the words that come to mind when you think of freedom. In the other column, write down the negative consequences of your personal freedoms for others, for the earth and even for your life. Listen to the video below and reflect on the true meaning of freedom.
Sit quietly for a few minutes reflecting on your lists and the video you have listened to. Allow God to speak to you. Are there changes you need to make to your original lists based on your reflections? Are there places in which God calls you to repent of your “independence”? Are there ways in which God may ask you to give up your personal freedoms for the common good?