Freedom is a wonderful word. In fact, freedom or liberty is at the heart of what it means to be an American, “where at least I know I’m free.” And in the height of any election season, protecting the various American freedoms is rightly at the forefront of the political debates. But have you ever asked yourself, “What is true freedom? Is freedom simply the accumulation of my various civil rights? Is freedom merely an outward experience or more of an inward experience? Am I truly free?”
There’s a famous scene in the movie Braveheart where William Wallace (played by Mel Gibson) shouts to his followers, “They may take our lives but they will never take our freedom!” Yet how is that possible if freedom is simply the right to vote or to peaceably assemble? This quote captures people’s innate desire to experience a type of freedom that imprisonment, injustices, and even death cannot touch. But is there really a freedom like that? Christianity answers with an emphatic, “Yes!” Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36), and the Apostle Paul pointed out, “For freedom, Christ has set us free” (Gal.5:1). In other words, in Jesus, people can experience a freedom that transcends any political freedom a nation or people group may or may not currently have. But if someone frees you, then you’ve been set free from something. So what does Jesus free people from?
Freedom From Something
Jesus said, “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:31). Jesus taught that the greatest form of slavery is the slavery to sin. What this means is that rebellion against God brings people under the just penalties of sin and the destructive power of sin and facing the eternal presence of sin. Yet Jesus frees people from sin through his own life and death. But how does this work exactly? In the famous novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond Dantes tries to escape from prison, but his plan fails. Yet, something happens to set him free. Faria, a priest and innocent cellmate who befriended Edmond, suddenly dies and the prison guards put the priest’s dead body in a sack and sow it up to be taken away. However, before they come back for the sack, Edmond sneaks into the priest’s cell to say his last goodbyes and suddenly is struck by an idea. He thinks, “Since only the dead leave this place freely, let us take the place of the dead.” Without wasting any time, Edmond removes the body, hides it in his cell, slips into Faria’s sack, and sows it up from the inside. Moments later the guards come and remove the body, but the body is actually Edmonds who is brought out of prison and he escapes as a free man.
This is a picture of how Jesus alone can set someone free. Jesus is the truly innocent Priest who befriends the sinner and dies on the cross for sin, but the only way Jesus’ death sets you free is when, like Edmond, you identify by faith with Christ’s death as your own death. When you receive Jesus’ life and death as your life and death, you’re then brought out from under all the demands and penalties of God’s Law because they have already been perfectly fulfilled in Jesus.
Imagine if you committed a number of terrible crimes and you’re caught, but on the way to court to receive your sentence, you happen to die. What can the law do to you now that you’re dead? Nothing! Because you died, the law can no longer enforce its demands or enact its penalties. This is precisely why the Apostle Paul reminds Christians that they have all “died with Christ” (Rom.6:8; Col.3:3, etc.). By faith, a Christian is united to Jesus and his life and death brings about his or her freedom. Yet, in order to be truly free, you must also be free to something.
Freedom To Something
A Christian has not only died with Christ, but has also risen with Christ. This means that the powerful Spirit of the risen Jesus has been given to every Christian to experience the freedom of overcoming sin and living the way a person is designed to live in dependence upon God. As Tim Keller says, “The birth of America is our independence day, but the birth of a Christian is our dependence day.” What he means is that true freedom is not living as your own authority and master but coming under the authority and liberating power of the right Master, namely Jesus. Many today seem to confuse liberty with license, but freedom is not living simply the way you desire to live but living in the way you were designed to live. Freedom is actually when your desire and design come together in Christ. A Christian is someone who has bet set free from sin and death and set free to a life lived with and for God forever. This is the true freedom that Christians everywhere should be the most passionate to share with others and fight to uphold because this is the only freedom that can never be taken away.
Fighting for Freedom
In the political passion of another election season and in the godly pursuit of maintaining and establishing ethical policies that are good for society, Christians should remember that the gospel is not getting your particular political party into the White House. No, there is only one person who can truly set people free, and his name is Jesus. Therefore, Churches and Christians must tell about the One who liberates the soul, renews the mind, and also changes the way you relate to those who disagree with you. As Bono, the lead singer of U2, said, “The Left mocks the Right. The Right knows it’s right. Two ugly traits. How far should we go to try and understand each other’s point of view? Maybe the distance grace covered on the cross is a clue.” It is remembering the true freedom that Christ purchased, that a Christian, no matter how the elections turn out or whatever may happen to him or her in life, can always say, “at least I know I’m free.”