What freedom do you most hold dear? I would guess most would defer to freedom of speech or freedom of religion. The thing is, despite the wording found in the preamble to our constitution, God does not guarantee such rights. He never promises that we will have the physical freedoms we have come to take for granted in this country. Surely, Paul and the other apostles in the book of Acts were not being granted freedoms of speech and religion. Nor did Jesus come to forcibly change Roman or Jewish law to allow His followers those freedoms. Instead, our Savior expects us to assemble and to teach regardless of the secular freedom to do so.
No, Jesus came for a better freedom. John 8:32 records Jesus simply stating that His truth makes us free. The religious leaders present understandably mistake Jesus’ meaning and begin to talk about physical freedoms, even claiming that they had never been in bondage as children of Abraham. (I’d like to know how they were characterizing Babylonian captivity and Roman occupation, but that’s another discussion entirely.) Jesus redirects them to focus on something bigger.
Starting in verse 34, Jesus speaks of slavery to sin. The very presence of sin in our lives takes away a freedom that we can never reclaim, but Jesus came to release us from those chains. Paul, in Romans 6, makes the case that Jesus’ sacrifice pays the debts accrued by sin and releases us from them, transforming us from servants of darkness to servants of light. Paul reiterates in Galatians 5 that, now being free, we should be wary of willingly submitting to the chains of sin once more.
I am grateful to live in a nation that allows me to believe and teach as I will. Some may fear those freedoms are coming to an end (a fear, I believe, that is unjustified and fueled by factions that seek to gain power through such fears). Even if they are, the loss of physical freedoms cannot touch those that are spiritual, as Paul makes clear in Romans 8:38 – 39. It’s good to have physical freedoms, but they are nothing compared those from above.
And defending those better freedoms is far simpler than our physical ones. Our battles are spiritual instead of physical. Instead of seeking to take lives to preserve our perceived rights, we seek to preserve life and save souls. Instead of facing down world powers, we instead face the powers within us. Instead of looking to a paper and a piece of cloth for our ideals, we look to the Prince of Peace and the perfect law of liberty. These provide a freedom above all others, and we can celebrate them every day by walking in our Savior’s footsteps and telling others about His love.