This post was originally published last year before our “A Year of Justice” campaign began, but it is so appropriate, we are running it again.
I’ve had the word freedom ringing hot in my mind since the beginning of this week.
Actually, I think about freedom a lot these days.
For one thing, becoming a Compassionate Entrepreneur with Trades of Hope has kept the voices and the faces of the many MANY un-free people on this planet at the forefront of my mind in a new and startling way. It’s both amazing and terrifying how very un-free a person can be, and how many un-free people there are living in our world.
And then there’s the fact that I am daily engaged in a battle with my own mini freedom fighter- my three year old daughter.
Three-year-olds seem to know a whole lot about independence without ever being told.
So earlier this week when I suggested that she have olives on her salad for lunch, and she informed me that she “didn’t yike oyives,” though I had witnessed her eat an entire can for dinner the night before, it hit me- this battle? It’s about the battle itself.
As her mother, I want to hem her in, to save her from herself, to keep her from ruining her life by growling at that sweet child in Sunday school class and chasing all her tiny friends away…. and YET she fights me at every turn. Now some would deem this her “sin nature,” and sure- before you start wagging your finger at me, let me just say that as her mother there’s no doubt in my mind that she’s a rebel at the core. That spunky little spirit wants to be her own God- no doubt about it. She is a sinner in need of redemption.
But witnessing the way the fierceness of her desire to bust loose just bubbled up in her one day, I’ve been grappling with another truth and trying to put it into words, and here it is- we were designed for freedom.
Because, you see, my daughter is also a human being, which means she was carefully crafted by a good and wise God who planted her ancestors on this planet in the middle of the most perfect place imaginable- beautiful, satisfying, pleasurable… I’m talking delicious food, unbelievable sunsets, unbridled passion, all of it not even touching the unspeakable beauty of unbroken intimacy with Life Himself.
And then God did something unexpected. He planted a potential bad choice smack dab in the middle of (what seemed like) perfection.
Danny Silk explains it this way in his book Loving our Kids on Purpose (2008): “Without the option of making a poor choice in that environment, they would not have been free… This story shows us the importance of freedom to our loving Father. Without the freedom to reject Him, we are powerless to choose Him. Obedience is a choice. The Lord plays by His own rules. He has designed us to be free and has given us an open environment in which to exercise our freedom… God introduced [a poor choice] into the garden on purpose.”
Freedom is not a safe word in many Christian circles- it can be a sidestepped word, a “yeah, but don’t get carried away…” word. We get all flushed just thinking about it. The sheer number of edits I’ve made while writing this post, the disclaimers I keep feeling compelled to add in… it’s all so exhausting.
So why is it that our yearning for freedom has been so often silenced or demonized (especially by the Church herself)? It seems to me that it has much to do with fear, and echos the heart of Paul’s words to the Galatians: “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.” (Gal 5:1) We are so quick to restrain the good news of the Spirit’s indwelling work, all too eager to re-establish a new law that we think can keep us all well-behaved and easily controlled. We want to keep things nice and tidy. Moral.
And yet God is the designer of freedom. I mean, every good and perfect gift is from above right?! How could we possibly think that a concept as refreshing to our soul as freedom, all the peace and joy and satisfaction that it implies, could have come from any other source than the Wellspring of Life.
So for all of you list loving types, let me break it down for you:
1. Freedom is for celebrating!
“It is for the sake of freedom, that Christ set us free.”
Did you catch that? Jesus came to set us free SO THAT WE WOULD BE FREE. Because it is good and right and wonderful to live in true freedom.
2. Freedom is only found in one place.
You can’t approach the word freedom without asking, “from what?” The Scriptures tells us that true and complete freedom is only experienced by those of us who have been released from the power of sin and death, those whom the Spirit of the Living God has brought to life. (And, ahem, He calls it ABUNDANT life.)
“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” (John 8:32-36)
“But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:22-23)
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Romans 8:1-2)
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; (Isaiah 61:1)
God desires to bring freedom to the afflicted, or else He wouldn’t have anointed Jesus to do it! And there are many afflicted. Men, women, and children all over the world are living in real physical bondage, intense poverty, without access to basic human rights -brokenhearted- and they need to hear our voices. They need to know that the God who created them loves them, planted the desire for freedom in their hearts, and came Himself to accomplish that freedom on their behalf.
Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom (Gal 5:1), so if that same Spirit resides in us (His Church) that means that we are both called and equipped to be freedom fighters on behalf of the afflicted. Our heart’s cry will naturally echo the Father’s, and His cry is for the whole world to know and experience true and complete freedom. The world should have no trouble guessing who Jesus’s followers are- we should be the ones who love so radically that we actively engage the cause of the afflicted, the oppressed, the forgotten, and rejected. They should be like “Oh those Jesus followers? Yeah, they’re always hard at work binding up broken hearts and breaking off the chains of those around them.”
So which areas of freedom have set your heart aflame with ache, friends? Don’t silence the Spirit’s burning for change- let’s join hands and lean hard into that call with all of our resources.
Join us on this journey to follow our Lord until we see ALL of the captives set free… on earth as it is in Heaven.