Reflections on Freedom

I live in the United States of America. In 1776 the British Colonies declared their independence from the crown, and fought hard to obtain it. July 4th is the day we celebrate that independence, and on that day there are great reflections on freedom, liberty, and independence.

However, today I want to reflect on something a little bit different. The definition of freedom as a Christian. To do that, we need to back up a little bit.

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness

Prior to regeneration, all people are slaves to sin. We are bound by necessity to act as our natures and wills. This is not a restriction on our freedom, it is simply the way it is. I am not less free because I cannot breathe underwater. I am not less free because I cannot fly unassisted. I am restricted by what I am. Furthermore, I am acting freely if I engage in the activity that I want to engage in. If I want to eat a cookie, and I eat a cookie, I am acting freely. So, even though we are bound by necessity to act as our natures and wills dictate, we act freely.

If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed

When we are regenerated, we are no longer slaves to sin. We become slaves to Christ. We are given a new nature, with a new will. We still act according to that new nature and desire. This new nature is now oriented toward doing good, and serving God. Although not perfect, it not only allows us to do good, it drives us to do good. It not only makes it possible for us to serve and love God, but it makes it unavoidable.

However, this is the best kind of slavery, because it is only in this slavery that we are truly free. Freedom isn’t independence, it is the freedom to seek and obtain life. This life is only found in Christ, and it is only granted by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. So today, as we celebrate the independence of our nation from the “tyranny” of England,[1] let us make sure that we remember that independence and freedom are not the same thing. Let us never think that our freedom as Christians is independence from the Lord. Instead, let us rejoice that the Father, through his Son, and by his Spirit, has given us true freedom by making us his children.

[1] I place the word “tyranny” in quotes, because there is real historic disagreement surrounding the actual level of tyranny that was taking place in the time leading up to the American Revolution. Furthermore, I recognize that there is real theological disagreement regarding the propriety of the actions of the American Revolutionaries.

Please see also a discussion on the Reformed Pubcast regarding the difference between Freedom from Compulsion and Freedom from Necessity.