In Christian services, writing, and music the association of Christianity with freedom tends to be a recurring theme. In fact, when I did a Google search for images with the search query “set free”, the first page of results were almost completely related to the theme of being set free in Christ. But what does it mean? What does it look like for Christ to set you free?
This is something I’ve thought about lately. We know from personal experience that you aren’t immediately set free from worldly bondage when you become a Christian.
The bondage of real slavery.
The bondage of suffering.
We know that many Christians still experience these things around the globe. So how does Christ set us free? What does Scripture have to say about it?
John 8:31-36 (NRSV)
Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
Initial unrelated thought: It is funny to me that they say, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone.” I know that these particular Jews may have lived their entire lives without being slaves, but the descendants of Abraham spent 400 years in slavery in Egypt, and these Jews were currently under Roman rule. My first thought is, seriously? Never slaves to anyone? Who are you trying to fool?
It seems clear that when the Bible talks about the freedom we have in Christ, it means that through his death on the cross we are freed from the penalty of sin.
Romans 8:1-4 (NRSV)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of 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 to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
And we can never understate the importance of being freed from sin. We stand in awe of the work Christ has done for us on the cross. But it seems to me that there is another biblical nuance to our freedom in Christ.
Galatians 5:1-6 (NRSV)
For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.
We are freed to have a new perspective.
The right perspective. As followers of God, we are able to see the world the way God sees it, the only way that it really makes sense.
The Christian in slavery? Whether or not he is ever freed from his earthly slavery, he has the freedom of knowing that this world is not his home. He has hope knowing that he will have eternal freedom in heaven through Christ. He has hope day-to-day knowing that the Holy Spirit lives within him.
The Christian suffering hurt, hardship, or loss? Whether or not the earthly suffering ever ends, she has the freedom of knowing that this suffering is temporary. That God in his sovereignty knows her hurt in her soul. She is comforted because God came in the flesh and suffered more than she ever will out of his love for humanity. She is comforted knowing that the Holy Spirit intercedes for her with groans her words cannot express.
The Christians living surrounded by immorality? (By the way, followers of YHWH have been living surrounded by immorality since Genesis 3 – sometimes we act like it is a new development, but it’s not.) They are freed from the potential for despair because their first loyalty was never to the nations of this world anyway. Their loyalty is to the Kingdom of God, and bringing it to the broken areas of their world. In addition, they are freed to have compassion on others instead of contempt because they know we are all children of God desperately in need of a Savior.
So that just my 2 cents about what I think it means to have freedom in Christ. What do you think it means to have freedom in Christ?