In the film ‘Braveheart’, William Wallace is a freedom fighter, a late 13th century Scottish warrior. Even in his dying moments, the word ‘freedom!’ is the cry of his heart, and freedom is at the heart of the Christian faith.
Freedom is important and highly valued, but is a difficult topic at times, for one person’s freedom can limit someone else’s freedom and we can all have preconceived ideas about what freedom is. Certainly the right to religious freedom has long been acknowledged as something given by God Himself, but over recent months we have seen an elected government taking away many basic freedoms without much consultation, and this second lockdown has raised many questions about our civil liberties. Information used to justify it was out of date and it is deeply disturbing to many that the Government has implemented measures to prevent people from seeing family members and many other freedoms we probably took for granted before. Even if we believe this was done with the best intentions, as Theresa May pointed out, ‘my concern is that the Government today, making it illegal to conduct an act of public worship for the best of intentions, sets a precedent that could be misused for a government in the future with the worst of intentions, and it has unintended consequences.’
Freedom in the Christian life is not simply about our civil liberties, however. Eph 2:1-2 reminds us that we all followed the way of this world before our conversion, being imprisoned in a way of life that was hostile to God. Col 1:13 tells us that Christ has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and Paul speaks about the mastery of sin which effectively curtails our freedom (see Rom 6). Christ has come to set us free from this mastery (see John 8:31-34, Gal 5:1). He has come to see us free from the devil’s lies.
Lies obscure our vision and distort how we see things and people. The enemy constantly tells us lies about God (persuading us that He is mean, waiting to catch us out, hateful, vengeful, bigoted, prejudiced and uninterested in us.) All these lies – which we can so easily believe – captivate us, but truth liberates.
We can, however, surrender our blood-bought freedom, as Paul reminded the Galatians. God gives us real freedom and even allows us to choose to follow Him. We are urged to surrender our lives to God (Rom 6:12-14) so that we are freed from the captivation (mastery) of sin. Then we need to grow. Growth is natural but not inevitable as any pot-bound plant reminds us. We need to realise what God has done for us (1 Cor 6:19-20) and then can grow into all that God intends for us. All who belong to God are liberated and have a freedom of incredible extents, a freedom that goes beyond any natural freedom, but also a freedom that can be surrendered, abused, or used. When we understand we have been bought with a price – the life of the Son of God – we can choose to honour God with the freedom He has given.