She lounges in a beach chair and sips on a Corona as the sun shines from above and the grass brushes her toes from below. It’s a perfect summer day, and she should have little to worry about. She feels lucky to live in a free country, with access to ease and convenience, comfort, and peace. Yet her mind is tormented with the worries of tomorrow. Will there be enough money in the account at the end of the month? Will she be able to stand up for herself against the overpowering authority that won’t leave her alone? Should she leave the job that daily makes her suffer and find a new one that may turn out even worse? Even though the gifts of life sustain and comfort her at every turn, she can’t help but wonder if they are really enough to get her through the years.
Yesterday haunts her heart as well. Her old, destructive path haunts her, along with the terrible moments she would never dare to talk about, the evil she continues to do, and the shame she can’t shake. She remembers how she gave her word and didn’t follow through when she excused her selfish acts and called it loving her neighbor. Even though she has learned to ignore the past when these forgotten moments flood over her, she convinces herself that she’s found a better way to live.
She is living the American dream, but she is not free. She is trapped by the worries of this world; chained to the works of her hands; oppressed by the love of money, wisdom, glory, and power; and smothered by achieving her desires. On the outside, she has access to all the blessings a “free” nation can offer, yet she still fails to enjoy true freedom.
This definition of freedom is vastly different than the freedom of a Christian given to us in Scripture.
The freedom we celebrate as Americans gives many of us comfort and peace, yet we have understood this concept in a culturally specific sense. It may convey a worldly standard for individual choice in our everyday life, a temporal system of representation that creates a collective voice of organized citizens, and a modern culture that claims autonomy is true freedom. But this definition of freedom is vastly different than the freedom of a Christian given to us in Scripture.
“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:2-6).
It’s with this freedom that Christ releases her from the plagues of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. His liberty is more complete than the financial stability to buy a house. His freedom is greater than the assurance to have a trial by jury. His freedom reaches past her death and promises her eternal life. His freedom rescues her from the pit of depression and wipes away every stain of wrongdoing. His freedom smashes the annoying mouth of the devil who tricks her with present temptations of temporal freedom.
Where American freedom shouts for individual rights and liberties, freedom in Christ binds neighbors together because our blessings are for each other.
This freedom is delivered to us through a suffering, weak, and even foolish savior on a cross. It is both strange and alien, because it comes to us from outside of us, as well as complete and awesome because the work and grace of God accomplishes it. But it looks nothing like the freedom we enjoy as Americans. In fact, it might even look like the complete opposite. Where American freedom strives for wealth, prosperity, and happy retirement, freedom in Christ means we can give all of these away because there is no worry about tomorrow. Where American freedom shouts for individual rights and liberties, freedom in Christ binds neighbors together because our blessings are for each other. Where American freedom praises the strong and self-sufficient, freedom in Christ allows us to love the weak because we too are in need.
America is not necessarily free, but the baptized are. We are free from death, the devil, and the slavery of sin.
“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (Rom. 6:4-7).